Ingredient of the Week: Hake
I always associate hake with Mallorca. This is because on the first British Cycling training camp I went on back in 2010, every night we would have to choose between hake or steak for our tea and that was basically all I ate for the time I was out there. Fortunately though, hake is very nutritious, so it wasn’t terrible, it just would have been nice to have had some variety.
Hake is a white fish similar to cod, haddock or coley. It is actually part of the same family as cod and shares many of its traits, including its flakiness when cooked. This means it is quite delicate and so care needs to be taken when cooking it. It has a very mild taste, making it a great choice for people who don’t like too strong a fishy flavour. Hake varies from 1kg to 5kg in size and so we tend to buy it already filleted. You can buy it fresh or frozen, but if fresh it’s best eaten straight away or frozen on purchase, as its shelf life is not very good.
Unsurprisingly, due to my personal experience, hake is most popular in Spanish or Portuguese cuisine. However, what I do find surprising is that it is one of the more common fish to be found in British seas. We don’t tend to cook with it though, which is a shame and the majority of it gets exported to Spain, Portugal and Italy. Another name for hake is whiting.
Why is it good for me?
Like all white fish, hake is high in protein and low in fat. Proteins are the building blocks of the body. They are found in all tissues, including skin, hair and especially muscles, where they help to build and repair any damage caused by exercise. When we exercise we cause minor damage to the muscular tissue and the resulting repair process is what allows them to grow bigger and stronger. The more protein our body has access to, the faster and more effectively our muscles can be repaired and maintained.
Being low in fat means that hake is also low in calories. It contains very little carbohydrate, making it pretty much pure protein, with several very important vitamins and minerals as well. Again, like with cod and coley, hake contains several of the B vitamins which all help to keep our metabolism working effectively and providing us with the energy we need. Hake is a very good source of phosphorous, which works in conjunction with calcium to build strong bones and teeth, while also being vital for the formation of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP’s role within the body is to carry energy to the cells within the body that need it at any one time. Be it for muscular contractions, metabolic reactions involved in breaking down food to fuel and to transport needed substances from cell to cell for general maintenance and repair. There is also growing evidence to suggest that phosphorous is effective at reducing muscular pain post-exercise, which is why as an athlete it is good to obtain plenty in your diet. Other minerals hthat hake provides are potassium, which I write more about in my articles on radishes and beetroot, and selenium which you can learn more about in my posts on turkey and chicken.
How do I prepare it?
Hake generally already comes filleted and skinned, so it needs very little preparation. Like with all fish however, it is good practice just to feel and check for any stray bones before cooking it.
How do I cook it?
Hake can be pan fried, grilled, roasted, baked or steamed. It takes a similar length of time to cook as cod. Once cooked it flakes very easily and so care needs to be taken when handling it. It is also highly recommended to not overcook it, as it will dry out and become rubbery. Due to its mild taste, it can be matched with a huge variety of flavours.
Try making this Mediterranean fish pasta, or keeping it quite simple with this baked hake and wild rice salad. If you can get your hands on smoked hake, then try this smokey hake and sweet potato stew. A popular combination of flavours is hake with coriander, so try swapping the cod for hake in this lemon and coriander cod. Try using it instead of tusk in this miso fish with cabbage and samphire stir-fry or even making this quick fish curry with it.
Hopefully the range of recipes I’ve suggested demonstrates just how versatile this fish is. It is also classed as a sustainable fish just now, which means that eating it is better for the environment than cod. As always though, make sure when buying fish you are getting it from a reputable source. Let me know if you try making any of these recipes.
Thank you for reading and speak soon.