Lighthouse Keeper’s Dover Sole

“I hope you like Suffolk” she said. “Pretty well, I thank you. Oh yes – very nice place for a little fresh air”.

Anthony Trollope, The Way We Live Now


Last month I had a truly excellent dinner cooked for me by a friend who has the distinction of owning a lighthouse in Suffolk.

And it was ready in minutes.

Dover sole (solea solea) is also known as black sole and it’s found all around British and Norwegian waters as well as in the Mediterranean. Why is it called Dover sole? Simply because, according to Wikipedia, this was the name of the English fishing port which landed the most sole in the 19th century.

You can now buy from sustainable sources catching sole in the English channel – look for the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) blue logo.

Sole fillets (not the inferior type which comes from the Pacific and is sometimes also named Dover sole in order to gain some kudos) have a compact texture which flakes but doesn’t fall apart. There is no particular season for it, but it’s best from July to February.

It’s not very oily so you want to cook it quickly to stop it drying out – for which reason it’s usually fried or grilled – and the simpler the better. It has a good taste of its own, it doesn’t need strong seasoning. Serve simply with spinach and new potatoes.

It’s good with grapes and dry martini (in which case it’s called Sole Veronique), or with a light veil of flour and capers (in which case it’s called Sole Meunière).

But my favourite way is Sole au Gardien de Phare which is:

• 4 sole fillets, about 100g/4 oz each
• 1 lemon – cut half into lemon wedges and zest the other half, and then juice it
• 4 knobs of butter, plus a bit more for buttering
• Small bunch (25g) of flat leaved parsley (this is more than you need, but put the rest into the vegetables)
• Smoked salt and freshly ground white pepper

1. Preheat your oven to 210ºC
2. Line a shallow roasting tin with enough foil that you can also cover the fillets once they’ve been placed on the tin
3. Grease the foil with a little butter
4. Place the fillets on top, and then season, put a knob of butter on each, and sprinkle over the juice of the half lemon
5. Cover with the flap of foil, roast for about four minutes
6. Take the flap off, and roast for another four or five minutes until the fillets become lightly golden
7. Serve and sprinkle with some parsley and lemon zest and the lemon wedges.
8. Serve with new potatoes and spinach


This post is dedicated to the lighthouse keeper

In foil, quite simply the easiest and juiciest way of cooking Dover sole.
In foil, quite simply the easiest and juiciest way of cooking Dover sole.


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