This week has all sorts of resonance. It’s the anniversary of the D Day landings, not that I’m connected to that piece of history any more than most others but seeing a lot of the war history to mark the anniversary makes me feel sad.
My dad was a great one for history, he was a little boy during the war and had some fun in and out of bombed out buildings in Brixton. Subsequently evacuated to Leicester he saw a different side to human nature (having been brought up in a kind and warm family) he saw, let’s just say the other side of the coin, when his younger brother was separated from him and was not well treated in the home allocated to him. Eventually dad, his brother and sister were reunited and lodged with a lovely lady, they called her ‘Ma’ and once returned to his own lovely parents he never forgot her kindness. All the talk of D Day has reminded me of Dad’s insistence that he had never seen a banana until after the war…
It’s 8 years to the day since he went away, his history diploma from Birkbeck College being awarded posthumously – I miss his humour and warmth still. Dad wasn’t a great foodie, he enjoyed his grub well enough, particularly a ‘Joe Blake’ and drop of ‘Gold Watch’.
I do remember being very tiny when he took us to a seafood restaurant in Boulogne called ‘Alfred’s’ and we ordered (when I say ‘we’ but I think I was about 3 years old) the Fruit de Mer. I didn’t know what to do with the various shellfish and a kindly little French lady at the next table fed me things in the correct etiquette. On any number of levels, look what that trip led to!
Another time, for a very special celebration Dad took us to the ‘Bernie Inn’ (I here you gasp at how fancy we were) we were not a family who ate out often , as he was a very hard worker and money was tight. I don’t think he had anticipated my perusing the menu and then opting for the Dover Sole, the single most expensive item on the menu. Looking back on it I’m staggered that he indulged me in such luxury particularly as I would never have been able to finish eating on my own (perhaps he also fancied some fish to go with his Joe Blake?). This probably leads you to think I was a gastronome as a child but the opposite is the case and I’m afraid I was usually fussy about food.
A platter of seafood and a Dover Sole remain my idea of food heaven to this day. Is it the delicious freshness, succulence and taste of the sea? Or is it the happy memories so inextricably linked to food? In our family, food and laughter mean love…
Simply Baked Dover Sole
Pre-heat oven to 180. Take one large Sole….trim all the way around the ‘frill’ with a pair of sharp scissors. Remove the head if you wish. Butter an oven proof dish and add a few thin slices of lemon lay the fish on top. Brush the sole with melted butter, season well with sea salt and pepper, put a small glug of white wine into the tray, and add table spoon of capers.
bake in the oven for about 20/25 minutes. Check the fish is cooked by gently pressing the flesh at the tail end and if the skin comes away and the skin beneath is white – not opaque, it’s ready.
Serve it with spinach that has been wilted with a knob of butter and squeeze of marmite – Jane Grigson tip, genius.