lemon sole with prawns and fennel salad

there's a massive queue outside steve hatt's and i leave r there looking grumpy and hungover. i'm off to town for lunch and clothes shopping - half a bottle of wine later, i come back with a jelly mould, a japanese mandoline slicer and an oven-proof frying pan.

i also buy a book at the daunt bookshop called the cellist of sarajevo, which i start reading on the bus home. it opens with a killer quote on the flyleaf: you might not be interested in war but war most definiely is interested in you - by trotsky, of all people. the second i start reading it though i want to tell everyone on the bus how crap it is. i think i roll my eyes and tutt and make slightly disgusted faces. it's pretentious drivel by some canadian do-gooder, full of fake empathy, piousness, platitudes about how we felt about the war and a cheap but predictable girl 'snajperista' who insists on being called 'Arrow' and who just so happens to be attractive. lord save us from more books about us.

it's saturday night so the dinner is slightly extravagant. we eat slices of ham from the italian deli for starter, drizzled with olive oil and, in r's case, jalapenos. i insist he spoils everything i cook with copious quantities of chilli - he claims it enhaces the flavour.

the bottle in the background is the rioja we were going to have the other day - it was worth the cash and the wait.

for the main, i make a fennel salad. you have to finely slice the fennel but so finely i think you can only really do it on the mandolin. it needs to be paper thin. i season with salt and pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil and that's it. we also eat a mountain of quickly boiled purple sprouting broccoli. but the main event is the fish - i insist we try lemon sole which so far r has said he hated. i think what he hates are the milky, creamy sauces that are sometimes served with it. very seventies and i think very bastardised french. we agree to fry it, and have it with a 'sauce' made from prawns with butter and parsley. it's pretty awesome - the crispy skin of the sole and juicy flesh against the sweetness of the prawns and butter.

we watch kings of new york and all the shootings, blood, coke and sex don't put either of us off our dinner. we drink italian gavi white from the deli, and nibble on some roquefort afterwards.

for 2, when you're hungry

4 fillets of lemon sole
8 prawns, raw and shell on (though you can do it with good cooked prawns, just won't be as nice)
handful of parsley, picked
50g butter
olive oil
flour for dusting
salt and pepper

first, do the prawns. if they're raw, drop them in a pan of boiling salted water for two minutes (max) till they change colour to pink. take them out, leave to cool and then peel. take the prawn shells, put them in a pan and cover them with water (so only a little bit of water, probably no more than 100 mils if that) and then boil for about 15 minutes to get prawn stock, of sorts.

season the sole fillets with salt and pepper, then dust with flour, shaking off any excess. in the meantime, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan - we actually use two because one is too small and you don't want to overcrowd it as this makes the fish (or meat, or whatever) boil rather then fry. wait till the oil is very hot and then put the sole dark side down and cook on medium heat, undisturbed, for about 2 or 3 minutes. put around half of the butter in the pan and then turn the fish and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, depending on how thick your fillets are. remove from the pan and keep warm.

in the same pan, pour the prawn 'stock' and boil briskly for a few minutes until reduced. put in some finely chopped parsley and whisk in the rest of the butter and prawns. pour over the fillets of sole and serve.

you can make it slightly healthier if you wish by skipping the buttery sauce at the end and just doing the stock reduction. i am sure it'd be just as nice.


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