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Sole with Mushrooms, Samphire, and Brown Shrimp Butter Sauce


Andrew Maxwell

A few weeks ago, I took a group of our Diploma students at Tante Marie Culinary Academy on a visit to Shipton Mill, a traditional flour mill which has been operating for many centuries it is even referenced in the Doomsday Book in 1086. The flours they produce are special and it is an interesting fact that very often, people who suffer wheat intolerance can actually eat Shipton Mill flour... more often than not, it is the processing of lesser quality flours which people react to.

Bread needs only 4 ingredients: flour, water, salt and yeast. (In fact, even the yeast can sometimes be omitted, or added by utilising natural yeasts which exist in the atmosphere around us). Go to the best supermarket and pick up a loaf of their 'Waitrose extra special, rolled on the breasts of virgins sour dough' and see how many ingredients are listed on the packaging. (If you can't be bothered, I'll tell you: 18... yes, 18 ingredients, including emulsifier mono and diacetyl tartaric acid esters of mono and diglycerides of fatty acids, yeast, flour treatment agent ascorbic acid). And we wonder why people have 'wheat' intolerances?

Fact: Food costs are rising.

During our professional diploma course, our students learn about the core principles of menu planning: seasonality, balance of nutrition, flavour, colour and texture on every dish and across the whole menu... the list goes on and includes taking into account the equipment available to you and your own ability.

We then set our students a challenge: plan, cost and cook a 3 course meal for 4 people, costing £8.50. We literally give our students £8.50 and they must go and buy all they need. (£2.12 per person, 3 courses). It is very doable and we expect our students to demonstrate skill, so no Dolmio and spaghetti out of a packet!

Having good basic skills and understanding of the seasons is the starting point. If you have this, and you understand that you need to be a magician to make poor quality ingredients taste amazing, you are already on the road to success.

The recipe in this edition is a good example of where beautiful food doesn't have to cost a fortune. Substitute the Dover sole for Lemon sole, or any other fish you like, and you've got a very economical dish which is possibly one of my favourite fish dishes of all time and it is British, through and through. It looks like a long list of ingredients but it is all so simply cooked and very speedy, particularly if you get your friendly fishmonger to deal with the sole for you! One can get samphire year round but once the UK season is over, it is imported. Keeping to my very important principles of seasonality, I recommend you avoid the imported samphire in the autumn and winter, and use Cavalo Nero instead. The delicious sauce literally tastes like the sea.

Sole with Mushrooms, Samphire, and Brown Shrimp Butter Sauce

Server four (depending on the size of your fish fillets)

  • 1 whole Dover sole, skinned and filleted
  • 2tbsp oil
  • 50g butter

For the sauce:

  • 100g brown shrimp
  • 3 plum tomatoes, skinned and neatly diced
  • 1 banana shallot, finely diced
  • 3tbsp capers
  • 2tbsp lemon juice
  • 2tbsp chives, finely chopped
  • 2tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped

To finish:

  • 250g mixed wild mushrooms, washed and roughly chopped
  • 125g Samphire or Cavalo Nero
  • 50g butter

  1. To cook the fish, heat the oil and butter in a frying pan and add the sole fillets skin side down and cook the for 2 minutes until golden brown.
  2. Turn the fillets and cook for a further minute, carefully remove the fillets from the pan and drain on some kitchen paper. Keep warm and allow to rest.
  3. For the sauce, add the 30g of butter to the frying pan and add the shrimps, shallots, capers and the lemon juice all together and cook over a gentle heat.
  4. Once the shrimp are heated through add the tomatoes and herbs and gently stir together, taste and adjust the seasoning and keep warm.
  5. To finish, in a separate pan add the butter, cook the mushrooms until soft and add the samphire to warm through. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  6. Spoon the wild mushroom and samphire mix into the centre of the plate, top with the Dover sole and spoon over the brown shrimp sauce.
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