Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Pan-fried lemon sole fillets with salsa verde

There was a time, somewhere in between the Picky Years and the Adventurous Years (i.e. the last few years), when I was neither picky nor particularly adventurous: during that time I was a student. I was a student for a long time - a four year BA, a one year Masters and a three year PhD. I got used to living on a tiny stipend and eating within a budget; I got used to pooling resources and concocting weird combinations of food with similarly economically-challenged friends. I ate a lot of stirfry, with a lot of cheap veggies (courgettes, onions, carrots) and not a lot of meat; I ate masses of bacon, chopped into pasta sauces or into stirfries, or on top of an array of steamed vegetables, and I ate tinned tuna. Wine tended to cost 2.99 a bottle, 3.99 if I was pushing the boat out or had been invited out for dinner (I had some standards). Anyway during those times I mainly ate spicy food -stirfries, curries, pasta with chilli-style sauces - and I forgot that somewhere out there people still ate meat or fish and two veg. I hardly ever, ever ate a potato - I thought that was what cavemen ate. When I went out for dinner, it was often pizza, curry or Thai; sometimes we went to Cafe rouge and very very occasionally we went to Brown's for steak. Then I moved and started work and work-life is different from student-life, and I got more interested in food because I wasn't perpetually skint/rushing out to the pub/eating Marmite on toast with my neighbours, and I could finally afford fresh fish.

All this comes as a preamble mainly because I realized yesterday while cooking that I would have despised what I was cooking in times gone by. Fillets of fish, potatoes, broccoli. How boring can you get? And yet now I find this sort of food immensely soothing (I still eat a lot of spicy food too - or I did before I started this project!). A couple of caveats: I used plaice not lemon sole as I had plaice and not lemon sole. I also hate the term pan-fried (it goes with oven-roasted as utterly pointless) but I can see its relevance: plain 'fried fish' sounds like the battered deep fried chip shop special, and probably puts the home cook off. Finally I have never made salsa verde before although I have eaten it a few times- my parents brought me some back from Spain and I liked it a lot. It is always good to learn how to cook something you've only ever eaten out of a jar.

Jamie said this was incredibly speedy. I was not incredible speedy, mainly because all the chopping required for the salsa verde took me an eternity (and in fact my lovely sous-chef took over!). Anyway to make salsa verde, you chop garlic and add capers, chopped gherkins, anchovies, parsley, basil and mint, then Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, and olive oil, plus pepper. It sounds very easy and it was easy, but I am not a particularly speedy chopper.

I boiled some salad potatoes and steamed broccoli (Jamie suggested purple sprouting - I only had calabrese). Meanwhile, I tossed the plaice fillets in salt, pepper and flour and then fried in olive oil and a little butter. Jamie instructs to then wait 20 seconds before squeezing in lemon juice, which I did.

I served with pan juices drizzled over and salsa verde spooned over fish and vegetables.

This was really nice, despite my little changes to the recipe. Salsa verde is really, really good - though anchovy-haters beware; the anchovies in it don't melt away as they do when cooked into sauces. I know the pic makes the meal look a bit white and green but it was very nice, honestly! Salsa verde is tasty and fresh; it has a kind of zing that makes you feel alive when you eat it (as opposed to say, risotto, which makes you feel cocooned). If only I were a better chopper, this would be a very speedy dinner. I need to improve my knife skills! Thank goodness for the sous-chef, who has infinitely better knife skills than me and a lot more patience - and who eats, appreciates and supports this project on a near-daily basis. Mmm - another recipe that I look forward to repeating.


Ilana said...

OMG,if I was the one doing the chopping I'd still be here chopping hours later.

I guess that is one of things I can't relate to with Jamie. He bungs this and that in, and sploshes, and tosses, etc. Everything is so easy and spontaneous. Too fast for my tiny brain, LOL.

Glad you liked the recipe. Man, you guys are eating so well. I need to move in with you. I just had cereal and milk!! but I did just come back from the gym.


Anonymous said...

I love fish cooked in this style! You should try the Cajun version, blackened fish with shrimp creole. I like this best with yellowfin tuna, but catfish is probably traditional.

I spent my student years at a Mexican restaurant that had an "all you can eat" lunch buffet for $5. It was great, but the chicken looked like the cadaver I dissected in A&P.


Kathryn said...

Ilana - I am the same with the chopping thing. I like the bunging and sploshing though..
You and Rafa are welcome whenever you want! I think I know what you like by now...!

Paul - that blackened fish with shrimp creole has my mouth watering. Could you or Freya give me a recipe, please?
All you can eat: I used to go to those too, only Chinese ones. I loved them. I suspect I might still like them, but I don't go...

FreyaE said...

I'll include a recipe for the fish with creole sauce along with the gumbo post I'm intending to write next weekend.

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