Coastal delights

Posted on: 25 March 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Dover sole, crispy Oriental mackerel and Spanish paella. Delicious to eat and chock full of healthy healthy fatty acids.

Grilled Dover SoleGrilled Dover Sole

There are various types of sole, but Dover is the very best. The fish can be found from the Mediterranean right up to the north of Scotland, not just in the Channel, and it acquired the adjective ‘Dover’ because the southern port used to be the one most associated with sole supplies coming into London.

This recipe exemplifies how simple some of our most classic recipes are. Try to cook it on the bone (most things are better cooked on the bone), but prepare it well first (see below).


Serves 4 as a main course

4 x 450g (1 lb) whole Dover sole
55g (2 oz) plain flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
55g (2 oz) unsalted butter, melted
2 lemons, halved
Parsley butter
115g (4 oz) unsalted butter
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley


Make the parsley butter first. Mix the butter with the lemon juice and parsley, and some salt and pepper. Roll up in dampened greaseproof paper to a sausage shape and put in the freezer until needed. Preheat the grill. To clean the soles, remove the black skin first. Dip the tail into boiling water then, using the back of a knife, scrape from the tail end towards the body to loosen a piece of the skin. Hold the fish down and grip the skin piece in a cloth. Pull firmly and all will come away.

Turn the fish over and carefully remove the scales from the white-skinned side. Remove the head by chopping it off (optional), then cut the side fins away using scissors. Wash and dry well. Season the flour with some salt and pepper, and dip the sole, skinned side only, into it. Shake off the excess flour and place on a grilling sheet, floured side up. Brush with melted butter, and grill on one side for about 5-6 minutes. If necessary, turn over, but test for doneness first. Do this by pushing your finger on to the backbone: if the meat gives sufficiently for you to feel bone, the sole is ready. Take the parsley butter from the freezer and, using a warm knife, cut into thin slices. Lay two slices on each sole and allow to melt naturally. Serve with half a lemon and new potatoes.

An interesting fact - Lemon soles, although fine fish, are not true soles – because they are ‘left-handed’. True soles like Dovers are dextral or right-handed, because they have both eyes on the right-hand side of their heads. In restaurants sole are grilled on salamanders, a bottom heat like a barbecue, rather than a top heat. This marks the fish with grid marks, and if you would like to recreate this at home, heat a metal skewer over a flame. Mark the fish before you cook, to scorch the flour. You can concoct different savoury butters to accompany grilled fish. Use anchovies, oysters, garlic or tarragon, for instance.



Oriental crispy Mackerel

Anthony Worrall Thompson’s Oriental Crispy Mackerel

Serves: 2


Vegetable oil, for deep frying
2 boneless mackerel, about 150g (5ozs)
Arrowroot for dusting
4 whole spring onions, trimmed
4 stems of fresh coriander
4 stems fresh leaf parsley

For the sauce

2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 tablespoons mirin or dry sherry
3 tablespoons light soy sauce
200ml (⅓ pint) dashi or fish stock


Coriander and parsley
1 tablespoon chopped cashews as garnish
Serve on steamed bok choi


First make the sauce by placing all the ingredients together in a saucepan and place over a low heat. Bring to just below boiling point, strain and keep warm.

Heat a medium saucepan of oil /8-10cm deep to a temperature of 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Season the mackerel with salt and dust in the arrowroot, then fry in the hot oil for 2-3 minutes. Remove and allow to drain on kitchen paper.

Next, fry the whole spring onions for 30 seconds. Remove and allow to drain.

Add the coriander and parsley stems to the hot sauce for a few seconds to let them soften.

Place the mackerel in a shallow bowl on a bed of steamed bok choi and pour a little of the sauce around them. Arrange some coriander and parsley and the fried onion on top on the fish and a final garnish with the cashews.




Nick Nairn’s Prawn Paella

This is a really good dish to make for a family feast in the summer. It has some of my favourite things in it – succulent prawns, chorizo sausage and mussels. Try to use the saffron in the recipe – there really is no substitute!

In Spain, Paella is cooked by the father of the family, outdoors on a wood fire in a huge double-handled paella pan. They even make big gas burners like huge picnic stoves so that you can cook it anywhere, as long as it is outside. Well, maybe our weather isn’t really up to it, so give it a go inside and wash down with plenty of Rioja.


Serves 6 as a main course

6 mussels, rinsed, scrubbed, debearded and rinsed again
60ml dry white wine
2 tbsp olive oil
2 chicken breasts, chopped into even-sized chunks
60g cooked chorizo, cut into chunks
½ onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
pinch dried red chilli flakes
pinch sweet paprika
110g Spanish paella rice or Italian Arborio or Carnaroli
350ml white chicken stock
pinch saffron
4 red cherry tomatoes, cut in half
30g fresh or frozen peas
3-4 large raw prawns, in their shells
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
juice ¼ lemon

Make sure your mussels are well cleaned. Once you↑ve yanked the beard off, using a tea towel for grip, keep rinsing them until no more debris comes off the shells. When the rinsing water runs clear, drain the mussels into a colander and use straight away as the tap water begins to kill them.

Choose a pan with a tight-fitting lid. Heat it dry over a high heat then pour in the mussels. Add the wine, place the lid on and cook until the mussels open.This takes about 3 or 4 minutes. Do not overcook them and discard any that don↑t open in this time. Drain in a colander set over a bowl. Cool and reserve both mussels and cooking liquid, separately.

Heat half the olive oil in a paella pan or large, deep frying pan. Add the chicken breast chunks and chorizo and brown all over, turning frequently. Stir in the garlic and onion and cook for about 5 minutes until softened.

Stir in the rice until all the grains are nicely coated and glossy. Now add the chilli flakes, paprika, reserved mussel cooking liquid, chicken stock and saffron. Stir well, once only; pop on the lid, bring to the boil and simmer very gently for 10 minutes without stirring at all. The rice grains must not release too much starch so that they remain separate.

When you open the lid, there should still be a fair amount of liquid. Add in the tomatoes and peas, very gently mixing them in. The time it takes for your rice to cook will depend on the rice you use, so keep tasting. Add in the prawns and replace the lid to let the prawns steam on top of the rice for about 8 minutes. We use defrosted IQF ’individually quickly frozen↑ raw prawns with the tails on. These are widely available. If you use the pink cooked ones, they↑ll just end up rubbery and tasteless.

When almost all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, scatter the mussels on top to heat through. Turn off the heat and let the paella stand for a few minutes. Scatter over the chopped parsley and serve straight from the pan, with lemon juice and olive oil drizzled over the top.

Read more on 50connect

Recipe form Nick Nairn Cook Schools

Basics of cooking fresh fish


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