Wednesday 6 January 2021

Recipes: Lemon Sole

Recipe: Whole roast lemon sole

Lemon sole

It's early June and we are still in lockdown due to the Covid19 virus and as I am in isolation and shielding, am unable to go to the shops. Fortunately, however, I live about a kilometre from the Portslade harbour and FISH, our local wholesale and retail fishmonger, delivers fresh from the boat to my door.

This week they were offering wild lemon sole.  It's not a true sole and it doesn't taste of lemon and its name is probably from the French name, limande.  That, in turn, might come from the French word for a file/sander in view of its rough sandpaper like skin or the French word for silt referring to its habitat.  Whatever the derivation of its name, it is related to the flounder, dab and plaice which are known as Dextral flatfish.  Flatfish such as Turbot, Brill and Megrim sole are Sinistral flatfish.

The thing about flatfish is that, although they start out in life like most other fish, with a rounded body and one eye on each side of the head, at some stage, for some reason, they turn on to one side and spend the rest of their lives in this position. Some species turn on to their right side and others to their left.

Having done so, they swim along the bottom of the sea on their side and the downside skin becomes paler and paler and the uppermost side changes colour and darkens, often to mimic the surrounding seabed, providing camouflage.  At the same time the eye and the nostril on the underside gradually move and migrate to the uppermost side.

Species which turn on to their right hand side and have their eyes and nostrils on the left are called Sinistral and if drawn or photographed with the mouth up the right way would be pictured with their head on the left and tail on the right.  Those with their eyes and nostrils on the right are called Dextral and should be pictured with their head on the right and tail on the left.

Whatever the differences, this recipe is suitable for all flatfish - and also round fish such as seabass or varieties of sea bream.  You will need to adjust the length of time for cooking according to their size and thickness,


1 Lemon sole
1 Lemon
1/4 preserved lemon (or zest of above)
salt and pepper
1 clove garlic
1 piece fresh ginger (app 2 -3 cms)
cherry tomatoes
fresh herbs
olive oil

deep slashes on the top side (right hand side)

deep slashes on the underneath (left side)

garlic and ginger

Place slivers of ginger, garlic and lemon in the slits you have cut in the skin.  As I have a plentiful supply of Preserved lemons , I used the peel of these instead of fresh lemons/zest.

If using preserved lemons, go easy on the salt seasoning; the lemons are very salty as they are preserved in salt.  

Heat the oven to 200C (Fan oven 180C)

fresh herbs and cherry tomatoes

Put some fresh herbs, in the body cavity of the fish with any remaining ginger and garlic. Lay the fish on a sprig of fresh herbs and a couple of bay leaves in a roasting tin or dish, surrounded by the cherry tomatoes.  I used fresh basil and savory but oregano is also very good. 
If you are using fresh lemon, slice ½ lemon and add the slices to the roasting dish. Add the cherry tomatoes and drizzle a little olive oil over the skin of the fish and the tomatoes. 

Roast in the pre-heated oven for 10-12 minutes. Check that the fish is almost cooked and beginning to come away from the bone.  Pour over a small glass of dry white wine, dry sherry or dry vermouth and a squeeze of lemon juice and replace in the oven for a further 5 mins. 
Roast Lemon Sole - ready to serve

Remove from the oven, spoon over the juices in the pan and serve.

John Austin

Hove, June 2020

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