As it was my mum’s birthday, I really wanted to spoil her with this lunch. So after the squid was devoured, I chucked the grill on and set about on a speedy main course. There were only the three of us eating, so the evening before I had excitedly rushed home with a trio of lovely Cornish Dover sole. Having only cooked and eaten these prized fish on less than a handful of occasions, I was determined to cook them carefully and treat them simply. A bag of mushrooms, a slab of butter and few bits picked from the allotment were all that was needed.
My mistake was in bringing the fish down to Brighton unprepared. I thought that my parents would want to be hands on and take interest in learning how to skin the fish. They were, although I wasn’t quite ready for the total mess that it would cause. At work, any mess is barely noticeable as it gets quickly slooshed away with a bucket of water. There was no such solution this time as scales sprayed across the kitchen, attaching themselves to the floorboards, fridge, clothing and hair. I felt so bad!
But once the fish was prepared and that total lead balloon had worn off a little, the rest of the dish came together in a flash. Simply grilled fish is always a pleasure to eat, especially when it emerges golden brown and sizzling from the oven and is swiftly doused in hot melted butter. Mushrooms and sage might seem a strange combination, but they provided a lovely contrast to the rich and meaty flesh.
We were all stuffed to bursting after two plates of food, but of course there was cake. And cream. And clotted cream. And ice cream. Oh heavens! Dad had followed a particularly lovely Nigel Slater recipe for lemon cake, all sticky and dense, and with tangy candied sliced burnished on top. After half an hour of eating grace to try and find some extra stomach space, it was happily forked up to complete a memorable afternoon celebration.
4 Dover sole, each about 400g in weight, skinned and trimmed
2 large handfuls of girolle mushrooms, brushed clean
1 clove of garlic, crushed
A few sprigs of sage, leaves picked
4 tbsp of butter
Heat the grill to high. Line a large oven tray with greaseproof paper and rub with 1 tsp of olive oil and a good pinch of seasoning. Place the Dover sole on top and rub with a little more oil and seasoning. Slide under the hot grill for 8 minutes.
Slice or tear the mushrooms into bite-size pieces if necessary.
Bring a large frying pan to a medium heat. Add the butter and melt, then toss in the mushrooms, crushed garlic clove and a pinch of seasoning. Fry for 4-5 minutes, tossing frequently, until caramelised on all sides. Add the sage leaves about halfway through, and allow them to slightly crisp in the hot butter.
Carefully transfer the cooked fish to each plate. Squeeze half of the lemon juice into the butter and mushrooms and stir to combine, then spoon generously over the fish. Serve with the remaining lemon on the side.