Spicy Hake Fishcakes
This year I've embarked on Neptune's Bounty, my mission to try eating 52 different species of seafood over 52 weeks, eating beyond the most eaten UK species of cod, haddock, prawns, salmon and tuna. The aims of this project are threefold, to promote lesser known and under-utilised species of fish with sustainability of stocks in mind; two, to explore new and interesting flavours, recipes and varieties; and lastly to introduce my infant daughter to seafood, trying some species for the first time with her.
For week one I've kept things relatively simple and accessible, looking at an alternative white fish, hake (European hake, Merluccius merluccius). Appreciated in southern Europe (indeed, it could be seen there as cod is to the north of the continent), hake has been growing in popularity in the UK with more and more chefs putting it on their menus. It's meaty texture, good flavour and propensity to stay attractive when cooked mean a pan fried fillet with a decent sauce and cheffed up vegetables is often the fishy option in a restaurant. I love it due to it's versatility and relative availability, it's becoming far more common in the shops and is a good bit cheaper than cod.
Sustainability wise MSC-certified stocks are available, it also rates as green on the Marine Conversation Society's Good Fish Guide. Alan Davidson describes it as "a very voracious fish" (North Atlantic Seafood, Penguin, 1980 p.62); if you're gutting your own watch out for a belly full of small fry. In the kitchen there's plenty of ways to enjoy hake, lending itself well to baking, frying, steaming and in things like fish pie. It also freezes well so if you see a packet being sold off cheap snap it up for the freezer and a rainy day. Hake pairs nicely with punchy flavours, think rich mediterranean stews, lots of tomatoes, capers, olive and herbs. Or things like chilli, garlic and ginger, as in the hake fishcake recipe below.
I have a lot of chillis ripening on the windowsill just now so I put one of our super spicy 'Cheyenne' varieties in the fishcake mix (despite their spiciness the recipe could probably take more). I used 'Apache', another fiesty type in the salad dressing where half a chilli is more likely enough. My little baby didn't try the fishcakes (though I would feed them to toddlers/preschoolers no problem) but she had a bit of hake steamed over boiled potatoes, mashed up with some cheddar - her first fish!
Recipe: Spicy Hake Fishcakes
For the fishcakes:
250g hake, skinned (this was £16.49/kg, just over £4)
half a red pepper
2 cloves garlic, peeled
thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled
1 chilli of desired spiciness
4 spring onions
small bunch coriander
zest of 1 lime
good pinch of salt
2 tbsp corn flour
mild oil, for frying
For the salad:
2 nests rice noodles, soaked in 1l boiling water for 8 minutes (I do this in a pyrex jug)
other half of the red pepper, finely sliced
1 small red onion, finely sliced
half a small cucumber, deseeded and sliced
For the dressing:
juice of half a lime
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
good pinch of salt
1 finely chopped hot chilli
small bunch coriander seeds
1 tsp each black and white sesame seeds
other half of the lime juice
Filleting knife (if you need to skin the fish)
small cook's knife (for everything else)
food processor or hand blender
oven tray, plate or another chopping board
cling film or cover
jam jam (for the dressing)
- Put all the fishcake ingredients in the food processor and blitz to a relatively smooth consistency. Or put in a bowl and blend with a hand blender which will take a bit more effort (depending on the model; mine is £3.99 from Asda, if you've got a fancy Kitchen Aid one the motor will be much stronger!)
- Divide the mixture into four and shape into cakes, using some cornflour on your hands and to stop it sticking.
- Place on something like an oven tray or back on the chopping board, cover and chill for 30 minutes in the fridge.
- Make the dressing by shaking everything together in a jam jar and set aside.
- Prepare the salad. 'Cook' the noodles in boiling water, then rinse under cold water to cool, combine with the salad veg.
- Heat a frying pan with some oil over a medium heat. Fry the fish cakes till golden on both sides. Drain on kitchen paper.
- Serve with the salad, with the dressing poured over, coriander, sesame seeds and a spritz of lime juice.
What else can you do with hake?
- Poach in a tomato sauce of tinned toms, onions, mediterranean herbs and olives
- Cover in egg, breadcrumbs and parmesan then bake in the oven and serve with chips and green veg
- Stash raw leftovers and small scraps in the freezer for a future fish pie
Even more ideas...