My dad adores fish. But mostly fillets. My brother hates fish. Can’t stand the fiddling with bones and stuff. And he doesn’t trust fillets either, cos what if he found a bone after all .So he just doesn’t touch fish. Just in case.
Such a shame, as fish cooked on the bone has so much more flavour and is so much easier to keep moist. Once you understand the structure of the fish and where the bones are, it’s not that difficult to fillet it yourself on your plate once served.
Or you could take it off the bone after cooking, but before serving with the sauce, like they do in fancy old-school restaurants. You know, the ones where they parade to your table with pomp and circumstance to proudly present you the whole fish or the whole roast. And then they whisk it away and fillet, or carve as the case may be, and neatly plate it all up for you.
At least 10 minutes later. When it’s stone cold.
I particularly remember this tradition from the days when I often traveled to Immenstaad on Lake Constanz (the Bodensee) for work. It always triggered mixed feelings. On the one hand I felt embarrassed, as if I was being serenaded to in front of my sniggering colleagues,. The child-dreamer in me couldn’t help but feel very special though, being treated like the queen I obviously should have been.
The snag, I soon discovered, is that they did not present you with just one plate. O no. Once you finally managed to work your way through the huge portion, they would invariably present you with an identical second plate! While your colleagues were all long done and couldn’t wait to hit the hotel bar.
Anyways. Back to the fish.
I’ve chosen budget-friendly lemon sole here, but this recipe would suit any flat fish you like. Use fillets if you must.
It’s a fairly simple classic recipe, updated with preserved lemon instead of standard lemon. It pairs well with a plain potato mash, but here I’ve paired it with a play on Irish colcannon using kohrabi.
Kohlrabi is one of those underused ugly root veg that people walk straight past in the vegetable isle, as they don’t know what to do with it. Another real shame.
I’ve recently rediscovered kohlrabi. It tastes a bit like a mellow radish or turnip, and has a similar texture. It is incredibly versatile. You can use it in so many recipes that call for potato or celeriac, be it cooked or raw. Roast, stir fry, braise, grill, grate, steam or boil. It has a high water content though, so do bear that in mind.
This colcannon of 50/50 kohlrabi and potato for instance needed no milk, cream or butter to slacken it. So by itself this colcannon is healthy, vegetarian, vegan, gluten and dairy free. It has wonderful cavolo nero and the slight bite of spring onion. Great as is or alongside sausages, fish or simply with an egg on top for brunch or a cheap midweek meal.
I also mixed leftovers with spelt flour and an egg once, then baked in muffin tins. Nice, but not nice enough to be bloggable just yet to be fair. That one needs more work!
The real coup de foudre here is the fried caper crumb though. I have simply fallen in love with this and am throwing it onto anything and everything at the moment.
Freely scatter it over oven dishes such as pasta bakes, stuffed vegetables or add unexpected crunch to salads. Blitz through fresh parsley and use instead of gremolata. I’m keeping this dish pescetarian, but the crumb is particularly lovely with some super-crisp bacon blitzed into it.
Here it adds much needed texture to a dish that would otherwise be well-suited to a postoperative dental patient.
Sole with Preserved Lemon and Fried Caper Breadcrumbs (Serves 2)
2 whole lemon sole, approx 225 gr each (head removed if that bothers you)
2-3 tbsp (GF) flour
1 tsp paprika or your favourite spice rub (I used leftover cajun rub because why not add a subtle hint of spice)
2 tbsp butter, plus 1 tbsp chilled butter cut into small cubes (optional)
2 tbsp capers in vinegar, drained and rinsed
Zest of half a lemon
3 tbsp homemade (GF) breadcrumbs, preferably home made by drying stale bread in a low oven, then blitzing to crumbs
1/2 small banana shallot, finely chopped
1/2 preserved lemon, insides removed and finely chopped
200 ml vegetable stock (you could use chicken stock for a deeper flavour if your dish doesn’t need to be pescetarian)
100 ml white wine
1-2 tbsp whipping cream or creme fraiche (optional)
To serve: chopped parsley and mash or colcannon
Preheat the oven to 150 C.
Add the flour to a plate and season generously with S&P and paprika or your favourite spice rub. Gently coat the sole in the flour on both sides. Shake off any excess and set aside.
Melt 1 tbsp butter into a frying pan over medium-high heat. When it starts to brown, add the capers. Toss them around for a minute or so, then add the breadcrumbs and lemon zest. Allow to toast for a minute or so until crisp and golden, then remove from the heat and set aside.
Wipe the pan clean with kitchen paper and put it back on the heat.
Heat 1 tbsp butter. Fry the fish for 1-2 mins on each side or until just browned. Transfer to a dish or large plate, skin side up and cover with a foil tent so as not to touch the delicate skin and transfer to the oven.
Put the pan back onto the heat and add the shallot. Fry for a minute or so until transparent, then deglaze the pan with the wine and stock. Reduce for 3-5 minutes.
Add the preserved lemon. Continue to reduce for a couple of minutes. Check the seasoning.
Now either add little cubes of the chilled butter while you keep stirring, or add a little cream or creme fraiche.
Turn off the heat. If the sauce is boiled any further at this point, it may split. Strain the sauce through a sieve, together with any fish juices from the fish plate.
Serve the fish with the sauce poured over. Top with plenty of the caper breadcrumbs and garnish with chopped parsley. Don’t forget to serve a plate for the bones.
Kale and Kohlrabi Colcannon (serves 4 – GF V RSF LC)
You could boil the potatoes with the kohlrabi, but as the kohlrabi prefers being “mashed” in a food processor, and the potatoes prefer being mashed with a ricer or potato masher, I cook and mash them separately before combining. Else, I like to bake my potatoes, rather than boil or steam them as, maybe it’s just me, but I find they have a nicer texture and flavour cooked that way.
So that’s what I’m doing here.
I used deliciously dark Cavolo Nero, which is a gorgeous Italian kale. But you can use curly kale or green cabbage if you gecan’t t hold of Cavolo Nero. Adjust the cooking time accordingly.
1 kohlrabi, peeled and cut into chunks
3-4 potatoes in their skin, up to the same weight as the kohlrabi (I used Vivaldi, which is a great baking potato)
a large handful of Cavolo Nero, hard stems and ribs removed
3 spring onions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp butter, or rapeseed oil if you need this to be vegan or dairy free
Preheat the oven to 190 C.
Wash and scrub the potatoes and bake for 1 1/2 hrs mins or until soft and fully cooked.
Meanwhile boil the kohlrabi in salted water for 15 mins or until cooked and soft. Drain and blend in a food processor with an S-blade or use a stick blender.
Remove the potatoes from the oven and once cool enough to handle, scoop their flesh out of the skins. Mix through the kohlrabi and give them a good mash with a potato masher. Go for a rustic fexture, it’s delicious.
Heat 1 tbsp of butter to a frying pan over medium heat and fry the Cavolo Nero for a couple of minutes or so until staring to wilt. Be careful not to colour them though. Add the spring onions and fry for another 30 secs.
Add the kale and spring onion to the potato and kohlrabi. Stir vigorously to combine and season to taste. Gently reheiresbeforeserving if needed.