Tuesday 24 April 2018

Forkful's: Spinach and hake bake

Hake and spinach bake. Photo: Mark Duggan 
Hake and spinach bake. Photo: Mark Duggan 

Aoife McElwain

There is something inherently comforting in a gratin. Whether it's layers of potatoes covered in melting cheese or pockets of macaroni held together by a creamy sauce, it's immensely satisfying to grab a spoonful of a potato or pasta bake for supper.

This week, I've put together a hake bake. It's a simple fish gratin that makes use of handfuls of spinach and a simple white sauce for the filling. The breadcrumb recipe is my go-to method of stale bread, rosemary and oil. I usually use this with bacon but the hake called out for chorizo, so I added a handful of finely chopped sausage to the food processor in place of bacon.

Another ingredient that adds a little edge to this dish is the fresh nutmeg. Fresh nutmegs are widely available in supermarkets and food stores, and they particularly love being paired with spinach. Their flavour is strong and a very little goes a long way, so be careful not to overdo it when grating. In this recipe, a quarter of a teaspoon is plenty.

The recipe below can be adapted quite easily to create the gratin of your choice. Instead of hake, you could use leftover cooked chicken, smeared in spinach-laden white sauce and topped with the chorizo breadcrumbs.

You could make it vegetarian by adding cooked pasta and pieces of roasted butternut squash, and losing the chorizo in the breadcrumb topping.

Whatever you go for, satisfaction is guaranteed.

Spinach and hake bake

Serves 2 to 4

Prep Time: 15 minutes Cooking Time: 20 to 30 minutes


3 tablespoons of butter

3 tablespoons of flour

400ml milk

Pinch of salt

Pinch of pepper

Fresh nutmeg

150g of spinach

About 100g of stale bread

1 sprig of fresh rosemary

3 tablespoons of olive oil

1 heaped tablespoon of finely diced chorizo sausage

2 x fresh hake fillets


1. Heat a frying pan over a medium heat. Melt the butter and add the flour, using a wooden spoon to mix everything really well so that you don't get floury clumps. Gradually add the milk, using a plastic whisk or the wooden spoon, mixing well until you get a smooth, creamy white sauce.

2. Add a generous pinch of salt and pepper to the sauce. Grate in about a quarter of a teaspoon of fresh nutmeg. Now add the spinach to the white sauce and mix into the sauce until wilted. Remove from the heat.

3. Make the breadcrumbs by blitzing the stale bread, the leaves from the rosemary sprig, the olive oil and the finely diced chorizo sausage in your food processor.

4. Pre-heat the oven to 200c/180c/gas mark 6. Cut the hake into chunks and place in an oven-proof baking dish. Cover with the white sauce and top with the breadcrumbs. Cook in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are browned and the fish is cooked through. Serve immediately.

This week's storecupboard essential:

Stale Bread: Stock up on stale bread by placing odd bits of bread in your freezer. When you need breadcrumbs, just defrost and blitz. Adding a rosemary, oil and bacon or chorizo heavy breadcrumb will elevate any bake.

Irish Independent

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