Dover Sole, as the name suggests, is not a fish one catches off the steeply shelving coast of South Africa, but one that prefers the shallow continental water of the English Channel and North Sea.
I first encountered this delicacy when we moved to London in the mid-seventies, and very quickly developed a passion for it, either grilled or meunière. As with all fish dishes you need to find the best possible raw materials, then let the natural flavours speak for themselves – simple as this sounds in theory, it takes practice to perfect!
There are several little tricks that must be mastered. First, and perhaps most important of all, you must never overcook it. Secondly, and slightly contrary to the first tip, both sides must be as crispy as possible.
So, how to achieve the crispiness without spoiling the gorgeous melt-in-your-mouth moistness of the delicate flesh?
Start by lightly seasoning it with salt and pepper, then dust with flour. Next, brush both sides with about a tablespoon of olive oil. Then place it on a hot char-grill (or a ridged cast iron pan) for just 90 seconds (no more!), then carefully turn it at a 90° angle, on the same side, for a further 90 seconds to achieve a lovely diamond cross-hatching effect. Turn it over with a metal spatula (carefully!) and do the same again. Then gently transfer it onto a baking dish and place in the oven at 180°C for 8-10 minutes. The fish is done when the bones move easily away from the flesh when you delicately insert a fork.
It’s best served with simple accompaniments – home made tartare sauce, freshly squeezed lemon juice and boiled new potatoes (tossed with a touch of butter, olive oil and chopped parsley). Done properly, it’s a taste of pure heaven, and one that one never seems to get tired of.
That’s why it’s a regular feature on the menu at some of our hotels, and why I’ve included it in my cook book – entitled “A Life in Food” it celebrates those recipes which are enduring favourites with our guests. All proceeds, excluding postage and packaging, will be donated to my favourite charities – The Startlight Foundation and The Tick Tock Club in the UK.