Grilled Lemon Sole Fillets

Pickled Vegetables, Duck Fat Potatoes, Smoked Paprika Mayonnaise

Recipe from Nathan’s 2023 cookbook, ‘Fish for Dinner’

This one is very special to me as it’s the first dish I ever came up with, when I was 25 and opened my first restaurant, The Black Pig. In fact, it was probably the first time I created what I considered to be my own style of dish. Lemon sole, at its best, is a fine, fine fish. However, the flesh is so delicate that you have to prepare it with real care and keep a very close eye when grilling. Ten seconds too long under the grill and it’s done for. But when it’s done well and in tip-top condition, I’d say it’s a serious contender for the crown.” – Nathan


Alternative fish:
megrim, plaice, brill, flounder, petrale sole

Serves 4

2 lemon sole, about 800g (1lb 12oz) each, filleted so both fillets are intact, descaled, skin left on and trimmed around the edges
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the smoked paprika oil
4 teaspoons smoked paprika
350ml (12fl oz) olive oil

For the pickled vegetables
1 banana shallot, finely sliced on a mandolin
2 large carrots, peeled with a peeler into strips
1 fennel bulb, tough outer layer removed, finely sliced on a mandolin
2 celery sticks, peeled of any stringy parts and finely sliced into half moons 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
2 sprigs of thyme
100ml (3½fl oz) white wine
100ml (3½fl oz) white wine vinegar
100ml (3½fl oz) water
100g (3½0z) caster (superfine) sugar
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fennel herb

For the smoked paprika mayonnaise
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon English mustard
Juice of ½ lemon
300ml (10½fl oz) smoked paprika oil

For the duck fat potatoes
600g 1lb 5oz) duck fat
2 teaspoons sea salt
4 large waxy red potatoes, peeled
2 sprigs of thyme
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

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TIP: The name lemon sole is a bit misleading because it isn t lemony, nor is it a sole. In fact, the fish belongs to the plaice/halibut family! Lemon sole feeds at night on barnacles and small crustaceans, which is possibly the reason for the shellfishy overtones of the flesh.

N.B. You will need to make the paprika oil 24 hours in advance.

Sprinkle the smoked paprika into a dry frying pan and toast over a medium heat for 1-2 minutes until it releases its aroma. Remove from the heat and add the oil. Leave to infuse for 24 hours, then decant into a glass jar.

This oil can be stored in the fridge for about 3 months.

For the pickled vegetables, place the vegetables in a large bowl with the garlic and thyme. Place the wine, white wine vinegar, measured water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat, stirring. Simmer for 1 minute and then pour this pickling liquor over the vegetables. Season with salt. Make sure everything is submerged and leave until cool. If you are making the pickles in advance, transfer to a clean container, seal and leave in the fridge until needed. Stored in a sterilised jar in the fridge, these pickles will keep for a month. In advance of cooking the fish, drain the vegetables you want to serve and mix them well with the chopped herbs. Serve at room temperature.

For the mayonnaise, place the egg yolks, mustard and lemon juice in a bowl and whisk together for 1 minute. Now slowly add the paprika oil, drop by drop to begin with, then in a steady stream, whisking constantly, until the mixture is emulsified and thick. Alternatively, you can make the mayonnaise in a blender or food processor, blending the egg yolks, mustard and lemon juice for 1 minute and then adding the oil slowy through the funnel with the motor running. Season the mayonnaise with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

It will keep in the fridge for a couple of days. Reserve the remaining paprika oil for cooking the fish.

To cook the potatoes, make a baking parchment circle that will fit inside a pan (big enough to hold the fat and potatoes snugly). The aim is for none of the potatoes to touch the bottom of the pan directly but to sit on top of the paper that will be at the bottom of the pan. Place the parchment circle in the pan and then the add the duck tat – once melted. it should cover the parchment layer. Heat the fat over a medium heat until melted and add the salt. Take your 4 potatoes and cut them in half lengthways then trim the edges to make equal sized rectangles. Using a temperature probe, bring the fat to a temperature of 120°C (248°F). When you reach this temperature, add the potatoes, thyme and garlic and try to control the heat to keep the temperature at this point. Cook for 30 minutes until soft with no colour on the potato. Keep the potatoes warm once cooked. Drain before serving and keep the fat for other uses. like roasted potatoes and trying.

To cook the fish, preheat your grill (broiler) to the highest setting. Oil a grill tray and lay the 4 double fillets on the tray, skin-side down. Season them with salt and drizzle with smoked paprika oil. Turn the fillets over and lay them so they don’t touch each other. This is important because. if touching, they can cook together and this will make it hard to take off the skin. If your potatoes are cooked and all your garnish is ready, cook the fish. The fish will cook fast and will overcook if everything else isn’t ready to serve. Slide the fish under the grill about 10cm (4in) from the heat. Cook for 3 minutes, then take the fish out from under the grill.

Leave for 1 minute, then peel the skin away and discard. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle some more smoked paprika oil over the fish.

To serve, warm 4 plates and place a pile of pickled vegetables on each plate. Spoon on a good dollop of smoked paprika mayonnaise and arrange 2 potatoes on each plate. Lay the sole on top and serve straight away.