White fish is not quite my jam. It’s just boring. Cod and haddock? I can’t tell the difference, particularly when breaded. Dover sole, lemon sole? I need the lemon juice by the gallon for me to taste something. It’s not that I hate the taste of white fish, it’s just that it doesn’t taste of much.
My childhood memories of my summer house down on an island off the coast of southern Sweden are largely composed of fishing with my uncle and my grandfather back when he was alive. These days, fishing is no longer permitted in those waters due to overfishing. The main prize was flounder, and I remember the delight we had when we realised that we had caught one, no matter how small, on those windy, grey summer days, hoping that we’d stay dry until the storms came in to wash away that incessant humidity. Most of the time, we caught jellyfish. Once, we even caught a beast of a fish that looked a lot like a monkfish. I remember being scared of it, thinking it was some sort of sea monster that would bite me, and we let it back in.
We’d usually return with just a few small flounders, but I remember loving them. My grandfather was in charge of cleaning them, breading them, and then finally frying them, served alongside some fried small potatoes and salad (though I steered clear of salad at all times back then). My parents now tell me that they were a bit hesitant of these dinners, because my grandfather always dutifully burned them to a crisp, overcooking the fish inside until it was as dry as a towel. I don’t remember this. I only remember devouring as much of the fish as possible.
We don’t have flounder, or any sort of white fish, particularly flatfish, very often these days. Perhaps it was only really my grandfather who liked them. He did always insist on buying a few, after the fishing ban came into play, when we visited.
So this one’s for you, morfar. I’m not a fan of flatfish these days (clearly yours were too good, and everything else pales into non-burnt comparison). This recipe keeps the fish wonderfully flaky, but oh-so-buttery and moist, and the flavours go amazingly well with the prawns and fish. I seriously recommend this one for a late evening. It doesn’t take all that much effort, particularly if you get your fish monger’s help. The results are amazing.
Serves 3-4, as a main meal.
Adapted from here!
1 large flatfish, weighing about 1kg. Dover sole, lemon sole, brill or flounder — it’s your choice! If you can, ask your fish monger to help you make the pocket you’ll need for stuffing. (below in instructions)
1 lemon, halved
300g small prawns
50ml of white wine
1 medium onion
4 tbsp of parsley, chopped
45g of butter
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
salt and pepper
What you need is a ‘pocket’ of sorts in your flatfish for your prawn stuffing to fit inside. If you can, ask your fish monger to do this for you. You need a four to five cm pocket that runs down either side of the fish, to stuff it. Otherwise, you’ll need to find the faint line that goes across your fish, use a sharp knife to cut alongside one side of that fish, angling it towards the other side, thus scoring between the bone and the flesh to make a ridge. Run the knife down to the sides through the whole body on both sides, about five cm deep or so, depending on how large your fish is. Here is a video from Jamie Oliver’s website if you need any more direction!
Preheat the oven to 200ºC.
Slice the onion very finely, and add to a deep dish, or a baking tray lined with baking paper. Season. Lay the flatfish gently on top, to get as many slices of onion as possible underneath, but a few beside also.
Melt the butter until liquid. Turn off the heat, and let it cool. Add the garlic, and the seasoning. Finally, add the prawns to the butter mixture, and mix to coat thoroughly. Stuff the prawns into the pocket you made in the fish. Once full, sprinkle some prawns and butter sauce over the fish. Add the splash of wine over the fish, getting some onto the onions as well.
Add your lemons halves and pop in the oven for about twenty minutes. You’ll need to adjust according to the size of the fish; have a look at Jamie’s tips for cooking the fish if you’re using a smaller or even larger fish!
The fish is cooked once the flesh simply flakes away from the bone. Remove from the oven, and sprinkle all over with the parsley. Serve up with some “smashed” potatoes or a fresh salad.