Steamed Hake over Baked Ratatouille

Steamed Hake over Roasted Rat
Roasted Rat? Yeah! Okay ... okay ... Ratatouille.

Ratatouille is a traditional French Provençal stewed vegetable dish, formally titled Ratatouille Niçoise in reference to its city of origin. The main ingredients are tomatoes, onions, courgette, aubergine, peppers, garlic, marjoram and basil. Variations are permissible and indeed, recommended.

My Rat was: onions, aubergine, courgette, mushrooms, sweet potato, chillies, garlic, oregano, chicken stock, black pepper and chopped tomatoes, fortified with a couple of blobs of tomato purée. I added a good glob of goose fat into the middle - I find fat seems to emulsify tomato sauces well, giving a real sumptuous depth.

Put that lot into an ovenproof dish with a lid and settle in the oven at 150C for a good hour ...

... go for a walk ...

... back from your walk, raise the temperature to 200C and remove the lid. The initial cooking period will meld all the flavours together, soften the veggies and generally make a gorgeous stew; a wet, gorgeous stew. The second phase will reduce the liquor, concentrate the flavours and bring a subtle roasted flavour to the dish and will take about half an hour.

We're just about ready to eat, so let's look at this fish ...

Hake. It's an ugly brute! Gut and remove the scales. Hake has a set of tough spines top and belly, so watch out as you work. I'd recommend leaving them on, since once cooked, those spines assist in the removal of the skin and the rest of the bone structure.

Head off. Chop straight through the fish, through the backbone, knocking your knife through with a rolling pin. You need a good, strong Chef's knife for this; better, a cleaver.

You'll get four good thick steaks from the front of the fish, the rear can then be filleted along the backbone to release two good tail fillets. We're going to have the thick steaks tonight.

Simply settle the fish into a steamer and steam away for about 15 minutes. Too little and the interior of the fish won't quite be done, nor will the skin and bones slip off. 15 minutes is about right.

Meanwhile, with a little coconut oil in a frying pan, fry off some kale until crispy. My Mrs fancied some chips (pictured), so I made a few, par boiling in the steaming water and shallow frying in goose fat.

Fish ready, simply pull the spines and the skin will remove. If you're lucky, the spine will also come with it and you'll be left with the two sides of the fish still just about held together. You can leave it on the spine and simply remove the flesh as you eat - no issue there.

Plate up ...

Kale in a bowl, Rat alongside, fish over. Chips alongside are optional.