Darina Allen cooks a traditional Irish fare – baked plaice served with salad and soda bread.The importance of good ingredients cooked simply to preserve their true flavours is paramount in Irish cuisine.Traditionally, fish and meat were mainly cooked by the gentry. They were nowhere to be seen at a peasant’s table.This is a very simple ‘master recipe’ which can be used not only for plaice and sole but for all very fresh flat fish, e.g. brill, turbot, dabs, flounder and lemon sole.Depending on the size of the fish, it can a starter or a main course.It’s also delicious Hollandaise Sauce, Mousseline or Beurre Blanc.
- 4 very fresh plaice or sole on the bone
- Herb Butter:
50-110g (50-110g/1/2 – 1 stick) butter
4 teaspoons mixed finely-chopped fresh parsley, chives, fennel and thyme leaves
salt and freshly ground pepper
- Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5.
- Turn the fish on its side and remove the head.
- Wash the fish and clean the slit very thoroughly. With a sharp knife, cut through the skin right round the fish, just where the ‘fringe’ meets the flesh. Be careful to cut neatly and to cross the side cuts at the tail or it will be difficult to remove the skin later on.
- Sprinkle the fish with salt and freshly-ground pepper and lay them in 1cm (1/2 inch) of water in a shallow baking tin.
- Bake in a moderately hot oven for 20-30 minutes according to the size of the fish. The water should have just evaporated as the fish is cooked. Check to see whether the fish is cooked by lifting the flesh from the bone at the head; it should lift off the bone easily and be quite white with no trace of pink.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter and stir in the freshly-chopped herbs. Just before serving catch the skin down near the tail and pull it off gently (the skin will tear badly if not properly cut).
- Lift the fish onto hot plates and spoon the herb butter over them.
- Serve immediately.