Baked Cornish Lemon Sole and week in France


This beautiful delicate sole was our lovely #fishfriday dinner this week. always one of the best moments of the week - relaxing around the kitchen table with husband and a bottle of wine, this time a lovely French red from a winery I visited this week on a work trip to Lyon.

For some reason France doesn’t really seem to completely work for me. I always seem to be in a queue to begin with, usually straight off the plane. Too often I also find myself in the wrong queue, for instance at airports stripping for the security check, belt off, jewellery off, scarf, jacket and watch off, laptop and toiletries from bag, shoes off, surreptitiously skipping and tiptoeing to avoid embarrassing wet footprints on the floor and then I'm told "non" and given some hand gestures to indicate that I am an idiot and in the wrong place and then get to repeat all the fun in another queue.


And wherever there is a queue there aren’t any of those barriers that keep the queue organized and make sure that the sacred rule of first in first out is obeyed. I hate queue jumpers even more than I hate queues so an unorganized queuing situation is very stressful to me as I have to police the process and make sure no one is trying to cheat. And I am sure it's not easy for my fellow queuers either having my bitchy eagle eye on them.

On the other hand wherever there is no queue there is a long labyrinth of barriers that you need to zigzag your way through to wherever it is you are going. And there is always a humourless looking official in a beige polyester uniform watching to make sure you are not trying cheat.

And it's not just the queuing, if in a bar in France I want a beer, there is no beer. If I want wine, there is no wine. If I want to order coffee at the bar it's against the rules somehow and if I sit at a table no one will ever come to take my order. And the answer to any question is always delivered with a uniquely French dollop of imperiousness and a hand gesture or shrug designed to make you feel stupid and misplaced. And let's face it, you probably are. I get accidentally locked in toilets. There is no butter served with the crusty bread. There s a bottle of wine at the lunch table at work but we are all too English to open it. My clothes rip. This might be related to the next topic, but seriously this time buttons started flying at Heathrow already resulting in a panic clothes purchase and some seamstressing at the hotel.

But all this I forgive France because of the cheese. Lovely smelly fatty gorgeousness that proves there is a God. Of course cheese doesn’t really work for me either, but settles comfortably and happily making a home on my obliging waist and arse without any intention of ever leaving me again regardless of how may depressing morning runs around the Parc Technologique I do.

This time the focus was firmly on Chevre. One evening we did a tour around a local winery. I always thought that you had to inherit a winery from le papa or be a film director to own one. But apparently Non! Our young winemaker/vineyard owner dude used to be a Volvo truck salesman, but then decided one day it really wasn’t for him. So Vincent, the dream chasing young man, decided what he really wanted was to make wine. Off he went to a wine making course and bought a winery. So that's how it’s done then. Now I just have to figure out how to become a French Volvo truck salesman.

Vincent showed us around his little winery Clos Saint-Marc. It’s actually not that interesting. It’s really just a barn with some tanks in the basement. There are the vinethingies that grow outside but we didn’t go there. Not sure why exactly, I was wearing my grubby running shoes especially with the intent of wondering on the mountainside with possibly a French Labrador, not sure if they do those, maybe more of a spaniel nation, but no, maybe he didn't want clueless tourists trampling on his precious vines, quite understandable. The tanks though, they are in an ugly windowless cold concrete floored room. And then there are barrels which are a bit more interesting, because they look rustic and pretty, but still you can't see what's in them and they won't let you lie in front of one and open the tap.

So definitely the most interesting thing about the winery was the wine once it was poured into my glass.

AND! There was a platter carrying woman bringing in locally produced beautiful food, delicious smoked trout, crudités, crusty bread (no butter), charcuterie and best of all trays and trays of goat cheese. Differently aged goat cheese that we were to taste with different wines. Is that heaven, paradise, utopia and bliss all in one smelly package or what?

And the following night we dined in an authentic little Bouchon Lyonnaise with a couple of my colleagues who braved things like the famous local pork intestine sausage Andouillette and garlicky frog legs. There was a really lovely sounding confit duck leg a l'orange on the menu as well and I felt a bit awful not trying any of the traditional local specialties, but my appetite just wasn't there after a whole day of sitting in a meeting room discussing digital marketing (much better than owning a winery on a French mountain side I'm sure) so I went for a goat cheese salad, which turned out to be lovely. Beautifully dressed green salad leaves and two filo parcels filled with the most wonderful goat cheese.

Garlicky frog legs

So last night I wanted to make a light dinner after all the goat cheese indulgence so got some beautiful fresh lemon sole to bake and to keep to the French theme I added some Provencal herbs and served it with a light and fresh ratatouille and the red Domaine du Clos Saint-Marc which my team won in our workshop competition to design the best digital campaign. A winemaker I may not be, but quite the Jesus in turning marketing bullsh savvy into wine.

Baked Cornish lemon sole with olives, spring onion and asparagus (serves 2)

4 small or 3 large lemon sole fillets (about 500g)
Olive oil
1 garlic clove
3 spring onions
10 cherry tomatoes
10 asparagus spears
Fresh parsley (or other herb of choice)
10-15 kalamata olives
1 tsp of Herbes de Provence herb mix
Zest and juice of half a lemon

Pre-heat oven to 200C

Skin the lemon sole fillets and cut off the frilly sides. Drizzle on some olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Mince the garlic, chop the spring onions, halve or quarter the cherry tomatoes, cut the asparagus to about 2cm long pieces, chop the parsley and pit and halve the olives. Mix all in a bowl adding the Herbes de Provence, lemon zest and juice and a drizzle of oil. Season with salt and pepper and mix well.

Pour the mixture in an oven dish and spread evenly. Put in oven for 10 minutes so that the vegetables start to cook and soften.

Take the tray out and place the fish fillets on top and spoon some of the vegetable mix on top of the fish fillets.

Bake for another 10 minutes or until the fish is done.

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