Hake & pan-wilted greens

Here’s a way to rev up frozen hake. Playing anything but second fiddle to the fish is a crunchy assortment of slightly unusual green vegetables.

To make hake and pan-wilted greens, you will need:

  • For the fish
  • 1kg frozen hake fillets
  • Red Tobasco (optional)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 75mm fresh ginger root
  • 1 tablespoon soya sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 6 spring onions
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • Sunflower or canola oil

For the greens

  • 200g green beans
  • 200g broccoli
  • 100g baby spinach leaves
  • 3 small bak choi
  • 100g watercress

We begin with the greens.
Bak choi is a small leafy cabbage increasingly available in South Africa. If you can’t get it, increase the amount of baby spinach leaves to compensate. Blanch the broccoli and the trimmed green beans for 60 seconds in lightly salted boiling water, then remove, douse in cold water and allow to drain. We return to the vegetables at the end of the proceedings.

Next, crush, peel and mince the garlic. Peel and grate the raw ginger root. Finely chop the bulbs of the spring onions and separately store the coarsely chopped green onion tops. In a bowl, combine the prepared spring onion bulbs, garlic and ginger with the soya sauce, brown sugar and carefully measured quantity of sesame oil. Sesame oil is a truly great flavouring agent but a little – in this case a quarter teaspoon – goes a long, long way. Add a dash or two of Red Tobasco to give the sauce a prickle of heat, mix all these well, and reserve the emulsion under cover.

Fish-cooking time. Select a heavy-based frying pan with a fitted lid from your collection. Pour in canola or sunflower oil to a create a depth of 2mm and bring this up to medium heat. Remove the frozen hake pieces from the freezer and add them straight to the pan of hot oil, unthawed.

I grant you that this seems counter-rational, but believe me, it’s the only way to go. Diminish the heat marginally and fit the lid. Cook for five minutes, flip the hake and replace the lid. Cook for three minutes, then remove the pan from the hob but leave it to one side with the lid still in place for the final two minutes of cooking. Remove from the oil, then place the fish in a covered dish in the warmer drawer of the oven for the few minutes it will take to wilt the greens.

Green wilting time! In a second (that is, clean) large frying pan, add a little canola or sunflower oil and bring this up to medium-high heat. Add the broccoli and beans, stirring like crazy, then swiftly add the baby spinach, bak choi and watercress.

Add a teaspoon of soya sauce and a little black pepper, stir well and remove swiftly from the heat. The wilted greens will have shrunk but retained their crunch and colour. Serve at once with the hake, pouring a little of the emulsified sauce over each serving, then sprinkle lightly with chopped spring onion greens.

And to drink? Cold Chenin Blanc or even colder Windhoek lager.