Lemon sole roasted whole with lemons needs only a little lemon juice to drizzle with when cooked.
Lemon sole and other flatfish
Probably the poorest cousin to all the flat fish, lemon sole shares an unpopular postcode with plaice (although the latter deserves a more up-and-coming neighbourhood, surely).
Its flesh cannot match the rich, flaky turbot or the firm, flavoursome Dover. Truth be told, it turns mushy very quickly.
It is rather good for fishcakes – although filleting is best left to the fishmonger – or goujons. It's no good for a pie because it's not firm enough, and forget about the fish and chips treatment for the same reason.
How to prepare lemon sole?
What to do with the poor cousin then? I think it depends on the size. If you buy large, fat fillets of the sole, you can make this exquisite dish of lemon sole cooked with creamy Parmesan sauce.
But the whole medium-size fish is perfect for a completely hassle-free cooking exercise as seen below, provided you have bought your fish cleaned and gutted, as you undoubtedly would.
How to roast whole sole
It couldn't be easier: the fish roasts it whole on a bed of lemons, lavishly basted with butter. This approach actually works well for lemon sole's more affluent relatives as well as the likes of sea bass and sea bream.
All you need to do is slice the lemons (or limes if you prefer) and spread them in a roasting dish to make a bed for the fish. Any aromatics will be welcome too: ginger or herbs, chilli and garlic if you're after a stronger sensation.
With a small drizzle of wine, vermouth or simply water, to create a little steam in the oven, that’s the roasting bed ready for the sole. Arrange the fish dark side up (which is NB much fleshier and nicer than the other side) with a couple of incisions made across the skin, to let the heat permeate.
Brushing with butter is obligatory: before it goes into the oven and another time halfway through the roasting time. Don’t skip it, it really makes a difference both to the flavour and the texture.
I’m afraid I can’t recommend vegan options as in my view, in recipes like this the French have it sussed: butter, butter and more butter.
It takes around half an hour to cook it, give or take 5 minutes depending on size anomalies, but absolutely no longer than that.
What is roasted lemon sole like?
Surprise, surprise: it’s really tasty and, unless you keep that poor thing in the oven for inordinately long, not mushy.
You can pull the dark skin off to serve it if you like, or just let the diners fend for themselves.
More sole recipes
I mentioned lemon sole fillets above, and it’s a delightful dish they can make, cooked in creamy Parmesan sauce.
Dover sole is frankly a much superior fish in taste and texture so it only needs a simple treatment: grilled, served with caper butter.
More easy fish recipes
Deconstructed fish and chips: here’s cod and crispy, herby potato bake. A simple dish and always a winner.
Cooking whole fish again, but this time under the grill: sea bream with balsamic marinade.
One of those dishes that look like a lot of effort to impress but are in fact incredibly easy: halibut steamed atop braised leeks and carrots.