For my readers in Blighty, the warm spell has gotten us all rather excited. At last an opportunity to ditch the drab clothing, and enjoy all the al fresco eating possibilities. And whilst barbeques might be the go-to of choice for many (the three supermarkets nearest to me were all cleared out of meat in all its permeations the other day, it was very A carnivorous prelude to the Apocalypsetastic), they needn’t be the only one. Besides, for a barbeque to be really fun it’s preferable if there is a large crowd of people to keep grilling said meat for.
Today’s dish is a perfect mid-week supper option. Easy enough to prepare, high on delish factor, not too heavy, thus won’t disrupt any pre-holiday body regimen, AKA a diet, one might be on and finally just perfect to be eaten outside on a balmy evening. If you’re in it to win it blow the budget with a bottle of Puligny Montrachet to accompany the meal, but if means are slightly straitened a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (Villa Maria is my bargainista favourite), should equally do the trick.
Pan Fried Lemon Sole in Herb Butter with Braised Fennel, Tomato and Parmesan
Difficulty Factor: Easy-Peasy
4 Lemon Sole Fillets
3 Bulbs of Fennel
1 clove of Garlic finely chopped
One large Vine Tomato
20 grams of Parmesan
Salt (to taste)
For the Herb Butter:
50 grams of Butter
I tablespoon of Fresh Dill
1 tablespoon of Fresh Parsley
This is one of those dishes that takes hardly any time at all but looks quite magnificent on the plate. I like to think of it as my ‘casual chef’ meal. You know the one you throw together when you want to impress, whilst not appearing too try hard, but that guarantees that guests will ooh and ah for weeks to come about your mad skills. Think of this dish as the culinary equivalent of your go-to dress or on-point shirt that has everyone complimenting you and wondering if you have just come back from a holiday, won the lottery or both. It really is that good.
With this dish it is the herb butter that makes everything more festive. I had already made some herb butter for another dish, so no pictures today, but to make your own, simply soften about 50 grams of unsalted butter with a spoon by hand (doing this in a food processor can overwork the butter) and combine with a tablespoon of finely chopped parsley and finely chopped dill. Transfer the softened and worked through butter onto some cling film roll into a sausage and secure each end. Then put in the fridge for an hour or so and you have a stash of butter that in addition to fish can be used to pimp other dishes. You can of course cheat and use a ready-made herb butter, but the down side of this is shop bought often skimps on the herbs plus you miss out on the vibrancy of colour on the finished plate.
Onto the main dish itself: I start with the vegetables first as the fish literally takes moments to both prep and cook. Take one tomato and place in a pot and cover with boiling hot water. Leave for three minutes or until you see the tomato skin start to come away. At this point remove the tomato from the water and peel off the skin before dicing into small pieces. Put aside.
Heat a frying pan with about a table spoon of olive oil, then reduce the heat and braise the fennel and garlic on a medium heat until it softens, you might want to add some more olive oil so that the fennel doesn’t stick to the base, and keep the heat on medium so that the garlic does not burn.
An easy way of knowing whether the fennel is cooked is to try and pierce a fork through thickest part of the bulb.
At this point add the tomato and combine for three to five minutes, reduce heat to the minimum a whilst you cook the fish. If the sauce looks like it’s in danger of drying out add a splash of water to the pan.
Lemon Sole fillets, do not need much to taste delicious. Some Olive oil and a quick sear for a minute on each side will normally suffice.
For the fish, get your searing pan as hot as you can and when it is almost smoking add your fish to the pan and reduce the heat, cook for about a minute or two depending on how large your fillets are.
Next, flip the fish over and add the herb butter atop of the fillets. Cook for a further minute and remove from the heat (otherwise the fish will be overcooked, fibrous and not very nice).
Now it is time to assemble the dish.
Put the Fennel and tomato sauce on the base. Next, scatter a few Parmesan flakes both on top of the sauce (so they melt a bit) and the odd artful shaving that will remain visible on the plate. Finally, add the sole fillets at a jaunty angle, so you can still view the fennel, tomatoes and Parmesan. Now serve and enjoy.