Winter Food with Jack Stein: braised hake, beetroot and winter salad

I created this dish a few years ago when, last minute, I was asked to create a recipe for Rick’s BBC Christmas Special. The brief was a bit odd, a winter salad with hake! My inspiration for the dish was a Christmas wreath. I wanted to incorporate the colours of Christmas, bright red holly and dark green ivy. Using some finely shredded winter greens such as January King, Savoy and red cabbage we made a basic light coleslaw.

Beetroot was always going to play a part because of its deep red colour and I used it three ways. First was to dress the cabbage, I balanced the beetroot’s earthy notes with some cider vinegar and rapeseed oil. I then flavoured some with mulled wine spices like cinnamon and clove, which screams Christmas to me. Finally I juiced some of the beetroot and added pomegranate juice which I think really finishes the dish and making it full of festive flavour.

This dish makes a perfect light starter for an evening meal, followed perhaps by salmon en croûte or fish pie.

Hope you’re enjoying this festive season!

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 7 medium-sized beetroot, peeled
  • Pinch caster sugar
  • Salt
  • 1 pared strip lime zest
  • 1 pared strip lemon zest
  • 2 cloves
  • 2.5cm (1 inch) piece cinnamon stick
  • 100g (3½ oz) red cabbage, finely shredded
  • 100g (3½ oz) green winter cabbage, such as hipse, finely shredded
  • 100g (3½ oz) white cabbage, finely shredded
  • 50g (1¾ oz) kale or cavolo nero, finely shredded
  • 1 tbsp sea purslane leaves (optional)
  • Small bunch of sea beet leaves, finely shredded (optional)
  • Small bunch chives, chopped
  • Small handful fennel fronds
  • 4 x 100g (3 ½ oz) pieces unskinned hake fillet
  • 25g (1 oz) butter
  • 50ml (2 fl oz) dry white wine
  • 100ml (3 ½ fl oz) fish stock
  • Sea salt flakes

For the dressing

  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • Salt
  • ½ pomegranate, seeds only, to serve


Place two of the beetroot into a small pan with the sugar, a good pinch of salt, the lime and lemon zest, cloves and cinnamon. Cover with cold water, bring to the boil, lower the heat and leave to simmer very gently for one hour or until tender when pierced through to the centre with a fine skewer. Remove the cooked beetroot and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, roughly chop four of the remaining beetroot and blend in a food processor to a smooth purée. Tip the purée into a sieve set over a bowl and press out all the liquid with the back of a spoon or spatula. You should yield about 75ml / 2 ½ fl oz of liquid. Set this aside for the dressing.

Cut the remaining beetroot into thin slices, then slice into fine matchsticks. Mix the shredded cabbages, sea purslane, sea beet, chives, fennel fronds and beetroot matchsticks together in a large bowl. Set aside. Season the hake on both sides with salt and set aside for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, for the dressing, whisk the beetroot juice with the vinegar, oil and some salt, to taste. Set aside. To cook the hake, melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan large enough to sit the fish comfortably side by side. Pat the hake dry with kitchen paper, add to the pan skin-side down and cook for 1 - 2 minutes over a medium-high heat, or until pale golden-brown. Turn the pieces over, add the white wine and fish stock to the pan, cover and cook for 2 - 3 minutes, or until cooked through. Keep warm.

To finish the dressing, whisk 2 tablespoons of the cooking liquid from the fish pan into the beetroot dressing and season, to taste, with salt. Add four tablespoons of the dressing to the cabbage salad and mix until well combined. Season, to taste, with sea salt flakes. To serve, thinly slice the cooked beetroot and overlap the slices to create a disc in the centre of each of four serving plates.

Place a 10 - 12cm/4 - 5in cooking ring into the centre of the beetroot slices and fill with the salad mixture. Carefully lift off and repeat for each of the remaining plates. Stir the pomegranate seeds into the remaining dressing. Place a piece of fish on top of the salad and spoon the dressing and pomegranate seeds around the outside of the plate.

Follow Jack on Twitter @JackStein

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