The various fish that come under the banner ‘hake’ are deep-sea members of the cod family and are popular throughout Europe and America. Hake is quite a mild fish, with a white flaky texture and a flavour that is more subtle than that of cod. The fish has a soft, iron-grey skin and silvery belly. The flesh when raw is naturally very soft, but when cooked it becomes firm and meaty. In France, hake is called ‘saumon blanc’ (which translates as 'white salmon') while in the United States it’s known as ling or whiting (what is known as whiting in Europe is a different, less tasty fish).
Various types of hake are caught in waters around the world, specifically in the Atlantic and North Pacific. It’s available both fresh and frozen, and is sold either as a whole fish, or gutted with the head intact, or as fillets and steaks. It can occasionally also be found dried or smoked. Some varieties of hake have been greatly affected by overfishing. A lot of hake is now imported from South Africa. If sourcing sustainable fish is a concern, look for the distinctive blue MSC logo.
Fillets require little preparation as the skin is soft, but checking for bones and pin-bones is necessary. It is popular in Spain and Portugal where it’s grilled, pan-fried and baked. It takes robust flavours well, particularly tomatoes, garlic, chorizo and paprika.
Article by CJ Jackson
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