Kate Young will be conducting a walk for Fox & Squirrel and friends on the 14th of May. Her tour Cooking Bloomsbury will delve into British literature and explore the ways food has been represented through novels, especially those set in Bloomsbury. As her walk is coming up soon we asked the cook whether she could share a recipe inspired by a book she’ll be referencing our walk.
Dover Sole. A Room of One’s Own.
…the lunch on this occasion began with soles, sunk in a deep dish, over which the college cook had spread a counterpane of the whitest cream, save that it was branded here and there with brown spots like the spots on the flanks of a doe.
A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf
This fish is the perfect starter to serve when you want to impress. Give each guest a whole sole, and bring the sauce to the table in a jug so they can spoon out their own. If you like, you can serve the fish in fillets – sole is a very easy fish to fillet once cooked, as the flesh can be pulled away from either side of the sturdy backbone with very little encouragement. Alternatively, you can serve the fish whole, as I did, and allow your guests to remove the flesh themselves. If your friends are anything like mine, they’ll end up picking at the bones with their fingers, to ensure they don’t miss a scrap.
Dover Sole with Cream Sauce and Capers
Serves 4 (as a decadent starter, or a main)
4 Dover sole, gutted (if you don’t have access to Dover sole, substitute with other types of sole or flounder)
Coarse sea salt and black pepper
2tbsp vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic
150ml/5oz dry vermouth
150ml/5oz fish stock (homemade is great if you have it – I cook up a batch whenever I have a good collection of raw fish bones/heads after preparing a meal, and store it in ice cube trays in my freezer)
120ml/4oz double/whipping cream
2tbsp capers, drained
1. First, prepare the fish. Place it dark-side up and make a cut across the fish through the skin, just above the tail. Peel the skin back slowly, using the point of the knife to help you start. Once you have a piece of skin large enough to grip, rub some coarse salt between your fingers and grip the skin firmly with one hand. Place the heel of your other hand firmly on the tail, and then pull back the skin, being particularly careful once you reach the head, or you may end up with a headless fish.
2. Flip the fish over, and repeat with the pale skin on the other side. Put the fish aside for a moment while you prepare the sauce.
3. Finely chop the garlic and shallot. Place a medium sized saucepan over a low-medium heat, and melt the butter for the sauce. Add the garlic and shallot, and cook for 2-3 minutes.
4. Pour in the vermouth, and simmer until the liquid reduces by half. Add the fish stock and, once again, reduce the liquid by half. Remove from the heat, sieve the sauce (discarding the garlic and shallots) and stir in the cream and capers. Return the sauce back to the saucepan – do give it a wash out first – ready to warm through once the fish is ready.
5. Put the flour for the fish in a wide, shallow bowl, and add a grinding of pepper. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over each side of the fish. Put one fish into the flour, and then flip it over, so that both sides are lightly covered in flour. Give the fish a shake to get rid of any excess, and repeat with the other three.
6. Place your widest saucepan over a medium heat. Warm the oil, then add the butter and, once the butter is foaming, add as many of the fish as will fit in the pan. Cook for around four minutes, until golden, then carefully flip the fish over using a fish slice or egg flip. Cook for a further four minutes on the second side. If you can’t fit all the fish in the pan at once, pop them in a low oven to keep them warm while you finish the second batch.
7. Place the fish on individual plates and warm the sauce through. Bring fish and sauce to the table and eat immediately.
If you’d like to reserve your spot on Saturday’s walk please head on over to our One Off Walk page here
Words & Image by Kate Young