More creatures live in the oceans than on land, with over 12 000 marine species in South African waters alone.
~WWF South Africa (www.wwf.org.za) ~
Years ago our doctors started telling us to eat more fish. Putting fish on your weekly menu will give you good, lean protein packed with essential nutrients. It may lower your risk for heart attacks and strokes. And if you eat fatty fish like tuna, salmon and mackerel, you get omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin D. So we have guiltily been buying some frozen white fish which sits in the freezer for months. The fatty fish types are easier to deal with. Who doesn’t have a few tins of tuna in the cupboard for that last week of the month before payday? And we are all happy to spend an extra couple of Rand on salmon sushi…. because it’s good for you!
Fish, chicken, meat or plant-based only?
But even before the 2021 Netflix film Seaspiracy came out, we started hearing about sustainable fishing – or the lack thereof. If you are like me and you have some Generation Z children or young adults in your house, you will know that the environment and sustainable eating is very important to them. And it should be too! We are plundering the environment to keep on feeding the billions of people on earth. No, I am not vegan, or even vegetarian and I do realise that I am part of the problem. My daughters are mostly only eating chicken, fish and plant-based foods. As a rule, we stick to that in the week and my husband and I will still have some beef, or pork and the odd lamb chop over weekends.
Meat the Farmer
I have found some online shopping options like Meat the Farmer for sustainably farmed, free-range meat. You can order online and collect the fresh farmed meat at a local pick-up point (they have many in Gauteng). Initially, I was worried about the added transport to me from a farm somewhere in the Free State or Eastern Cape, but it seems that the delivery process is actually more direct than supermarket transport. So there are some options for privileged people to pick more sustainable food production. What about the fish then? Should we all stop eating fish because the oceans are going to run out?
To fish or not to fish…
I have had to go do some reading about what we can do to keep eating fish as our doctors want us to, without depleting stocks. Luckily I have a Facebook friend who is actually a marine biologist and shared a very sobering video by the World Wide Fund for Nature about fishing for tuna. The WWF website explains that we can use the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI) app to check on the origin of the fish we eat. We also have to ask whether that fish is sustainably sourced. Tuna is not that great to buy unless it is line-caught, but luckily for South Africans, Cape Hake is on the green list. Hence my very easy and tasty recipe for a Crumbed Hake Bake.
Dreading the breading
As I mentioned in my Sweet Potato Fie Pie post, I am not very enthused by fish as a rule. Even less so by white, frozen fish fillets. But we have to think about what we eat in more ways than one, so I have had to invent some tasty ways to eat frozen Hake. Obviously battered or crumbed fish is tasty, but I hate breading food. The process of dipping your fish or chicken in egg, then in flour, then egg again and finally, breadcrumbs are just too much for me. And your fingers are breaded as much as your fish in the end! So I became lazy and started just dumping the crumbs on top of the fish in a baking dish. And Crumbed Hake Bake was born. This recipe has become such a favourite in my house that I can even cook fish on a Monday now!
Crumbed Hake Bake
- 600 g frozen Hake fillets
- fish seasoning
- 1 lemon, zested I zest the whole lemon, then cut it in half and juice the one half and cut the other half in slices for serving
- 3 slices white bread turned into crumbs I prefer using sturdy bread like sourdough or ciabatta. I leave the slices outside for a few hours to dry them out slightly and then blitz them in the food processor
- ¼ c fresh parsley, chopped Or about 1 T dried parsley
- 1 - 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 50 g melted butter, margarine, plant butter or olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp hard cheese, grated Optional, or you can use digestive yeast
- Defrost the fish fillets thoroughly before cooking.
- Preheat your oven to 180°C.
- Spray a medium-sized rectangular oven dish with non-stick spray or grease with butter.
- Pat the fish fillets dry and place them in the oven dish so that they fit snugly next to one another.
- Season with fish seasoning and salt and pepper to taste.
- Drizzle with the juice of half a lemon.
- Combine the breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic, lemon zest and melted butter or oil and mix well.
- Season the bread crumb mixture well. I sometimes add fish seasoning into the crumb mixture as well as salt and pepper.
- Sprinkle the crumbs over the prepared fish and top with grated hard cheese.
- Bake for 20 minutes until the fish is cooked through and the crumbs are golden brown.
- I have often been tempted to use the fish while still frozen and just cook it for longer. It is possible to do this, but you run the risk of having way too much liquid in the bottom of the bake and I therefore try to always use defrosted fish.
- People used to say you shouldn't serve fish and cheese together, but I find the grated hard cheese gives the crumb topping an added savoury taste and some nice crunch. Mixing digestive yeast in with the crumbs will do the same.
- You can also crush some potato crisps and mix that with your crumbs for an added flavour boost.
- This recipe is great for a week night supper when you want to cut down on calories. As the fish already have a carby crumb topping, you can serve it with veggies or salad and reduce the amount of starch in your meal without feeling "robbed" of any carby goodness.