Mersea spoils: Dover soles as cheap as chips
If there’s a question mark over the provenance of some of the seafood, the same cannot be said of the wet fish counter at The Company Shed. Brimming with plaice, flounders, sprats and soles so perky they can’t have travelled further than day boat-to-building, the exception being salmon which can only have been Scottish. As well as rigor-stiff freshness another giveaway is the price, almost half of what you’d give a decent London fishmonger.
They had as many Dover soles as sprats on this occasion which may have further reduced the damage, and at £15/kg (you’ll often pay upwards of £25/kg) for generous one-portion fish it would have been rude and silly not to.
Who you looking at?
Ironically, Dover sole is easier to deal with when it’s a few days old so I had a fight to pull off the sandpapery dark grey skin (I left on the white). If stored appropriately Dovers can be eaten up to two weeks after they’ve been caught, which probably tells you something about their popularity with restaurants.
You make a slit across the tail and pull the skin off across the body, which is a complete ballache – 20 minutes! – when the fish is just out of the water. Thanks @LeCafeAnglais and @angus_macnab for the fishy tips!
I grilled the fish for 3-4 minutes either side with just seasoning and a bit of butter for company. A caramelised fennel, tarragon and lemon zest butter (finely sliced fennel slowly cooked in butter until golden brown, fresh chopped tarragon, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt. What can’t you make better with more butter?) to pour on the finished fish and some roasted squash on the side and job’s done. Firm, sweet, delicate and succulent fish, almost worth the Mersea trip alone.