Thursday, July 26, 2007

Lemon Sole with Pea Purée

I have an embarrassing confession to make. If someone asked me to name my favourite vegetable, I have a sneaky suspicion that I might name the common or garden pea. No, not even a sugar snap. Just the plain, ordinary, bog-standard pea.

I am embarrassed by this on various levels. Firstly, it seems somewhat unimaginative. With all the wonderful vegetables now available to us, why would I choose something so... routine? Secondly, and this really pains me to write, but I have a slight preference towards the frozen variety over the fresh. Yes. Really. Ok, so a freshly shelled pea plucked from the stalk moments ago takes some beating, but once they have been packed up and sat around for a few days they seem to develop a nasty, hard texture and loose all their sweetness. Frozen peas seem to retain their lovely pea flavour for longer. Is it just me? I hope not.

Anyway, my love for the humble pea is bordering on obsession. I throw them liberally into pasta sauces, pour a few into a risotto, simmer them in ham stock and whizz them into a soup. Pair them with almost anything and everything. Imagine my sheer delight when I discovered that my newest brother-in-law shares my passion and insists on them with the Christmas turkey. In a bit to make him 'feel at home' my mother grudgingly permitted them to be served with the festive feast last year. A triumph for the simple pea.

Last night I fancied some fish. As you do. I picked up a bit of lemon sole. What to serve with it? Peas, of course. Better still, a pea purée. I picked up a some fresh peas - surprisingly good ones with a lovely sweetness. I'll eat the remaining ones raw tonight in a salad. This was a simple and quick supper but good enough to impress if you had guests. It is pleasing both on the eye and the palate.

Ingredients - for 2

2 fillets of lemon sole
juice and grated rind of half a lemon
Knob of butter
Sprig of thyme

1 leek or small white onion
4 good handfuls of peas (fresh or frozen)
Vegetable stock cube
1 tablespoon cream cheese or creme fraiche
Salt and pepper

Pre-heat oven to 200C
1. Place each fillet of sole onto a large sheet of foil. Top with lemon rind and juice. Dot with butter. Season well with salt and pepper and sprinkle over the thyme leaves.

2. Fold foil around the fish to create a parcel, leaving a little space between the fish and the foil at the top so that the fish can 'steam' within the parcel. This will ensure it stays moist.

3. Bake fish in oven for 10 minutes.

4. Whilst the fish is cooking, sweat the leek or onion in a little butter until translucent. Add the peas and a little boiling water. Add the stock cube and simmer for a couple of minutes, until the peas are cooked.

5. Drain the peas but RETAIN the water. Place peas in blender along with a little of the stock and whizz until fairly smooth - add more stock until desired consistency. Add cream cheese or creme fraiche to taste. Season well.

6. Pour purée onto plates and top with the cooked fish.

Notes - I served this with some crushed new potatoes under the fish. Don't do as I did and use chicken stock rather than vegetable - I found the flavour of the chicken stock a little overwhelming with the fish.

Wine Notes - I enjoyed an Alsace Pinot Blanc from Josmeyer with this.

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