Flat out for flavour: or sole man, sole

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have enough pans for a sole party, man. Fillets of flat fish like sole, or dory, or flounder stand up beautifully to most forms of cooking: frying, steaming, poaching. Just keep a good eye on the show. Remember, it’s unusual to find a fat, flat fish. They will cook very quickly if they are filleted.


You can ask your fishmonger to fillet the fish, but try it yourself first, then you can tell him/her what to do next time. Start with a very sharp knife – that should go without saying when it comes to fish of any sort. It doesn’t have to be a boning knife, but a flexible knife of that style will certainly help. Make an incision near the tail, ease a little skin away from the flesh, and then rip the rest away. Sounds tough, is easy, if the fish is very fresh; if it’s not you shouldn’t have bought it. Now, run your knife down the backbone until it touches the chest bones. Run the blade between the flesh and the large skeletal bones, and draw the flesh away gently. Soon as you know it, you’ll have four fillets and a skeleton that looks like it came out of a Tom and Jerry cartoon. Don’t throw the bones away. You can see at a glance at the carcass that this is one fish full of gelatine, just the thing for a stock.

Do something grand with the bones.


If you make a stock, do it with all sorts of aromatics — leeks, carrots, parsnips, fennel, bay leaf, black pepper, a couple of chillies, ginger, some white wine and water and finish off with a few skinned tomatoes, some chopped lemon grass and half a bunch of coriander.


The fillets will cook quickly, by any of the methods already mentioned. They are wonderful steamed over the bubbling stock and then added, very late, to the stock itself, reduced to a simmer.


Serve at the bottom of a deep soup bowl, with the stock, vegetables all about, just covering the lot. Toss in some chopped coriander.


If you have a large pan, flour one side of the fish lightly, and fry, floured side down, in a very hot pan for a couple of minutes, until the fish is sizzling and the flour is well browned. Put pan and all into a hot oven and cook until the fish just gives to the touch, 5-7 minutes. Serve with salt, black pepper and a fresh, sliced lemon.

WINE: Have a search around for a gewurztraminer from Alsace. (Hugel is the most widely available.) Serve it cold — delicious.