Zap My Sole

L, my T & S*, spoils me on a regular basis. She knows I'm very partial to lemon sole, whose texture she dislikes: she also knows (as do most of you by now) of my love of dressed crab. At a recent visit to McPhersons the fishmonger, bless her soul, she bought both. It transpired that the fish fillet was a teeny tiny thing, which gave me an idea. That's part two of today's proceedings.

I'm doing my best not to go full a la recherche du temps perdu here, but I have no idea where you'd find the Dover sole of blessed memory from Wheeler's in Mayfair (or indeed Armando's La Toscana in Aberdour). Were you to find these mythical creatures, much gold would be required. Little fillets, therefore, must suffice for most of us. As L fears, they can indeed be slimy but in the hands (and pan) of a master (ahem), they can be be things of beauty.

Let's begin with a classic.

Sole Meunière

Millers have had a bad press in history. Greedy, grasping, rapacious. And let's say nothing about the bawdiness of Chaucer's The Miller's Tale. Yet one of them was blessed with a spouse who created this gem. It simply means sole in the style of the miller's wife.

A recent recipe which I saw suggested cooking the sole fillet in oil first, then adding a load of butter for the sauce. I don't think that would be traditional method, but it's important to remember a few things.

Make sure the fillets are almost cooked before you finish the sauce. Probably 30 seconds underdone is ideal. When your butter is starting to go brown, get in a good squeeze of lemon, which will slow the process. I hesitate to give quantities of butter, or cooking times, as fillet sizes vary. Be generous with the former and cautious with the latter. My tiny fillet needed no more than a minute on each side.


1 or 2 sole fillets per person; olive oil (optional); butter; seasoned flour (seasoned with s & p); fresh lemon juice; baby capers (or large ones roughly chopped).


Essentially this is cooked sole with a lot of butter. It's done in two stages. You can decide whether the cooking of the sole is done in oil, butter and oil, or butter alone. With a tiny fillet, I chose butter only. With a larger one I'd go for option 1 or 2.

Lightly dust the sole in seasoned flour, shaking off any excess. Quickly cook the fish until almost done, then keep warm on a side plate. Turn the heat up and melt a generous amount of butter. When the butter is foaming and just beginning to turn golden, add a good squeeze of lemon and stir in the capers. Spoon the sauce over the fish and serve immediately, with another squeeze of lemon and a grating of black pepper

I'm in the Madame Prunier camp. She was firmly of the view that fish should be served only with potatoes. With this richness, plain boiled are perfect,  new if in season.

Sole with Crab

Rereading the spaghetti with prawns,crab, garlic and chilli recipe from a few weeks ago, I was kicking myself that I forgot to suggest dressed crab in place of crab pate. That assumes you have a decent fishmonger who isn't a rip off merchant. (Top Tip: avoid Edinburgh's Stockbridge.)

This is a simple variation on the previous recipe. You won't need much crab at all. Be sparing when adding the sauce to the fish. Sole has a very delicate flavour which is easy to overpower. If you have more sauce than you need it's delicious on top of the potatoes.


As above, plus a few teaspoons of dressed crab and a slug of dry vermouth.


Cook the fish as before and set to one side. When the butter starts to foam, add the lemon juice and vermouth, then bubble to reduce a little. Stir in the crab and capers. Your sauce is ready when everything is warmed through. Dress the fish and serve at once.

*T & S = Trouble and Strife = wife. It's Fife rhyming slang, beloved of those of us born within the sound of the Lochgelly Co-op clock bells.

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