Pocket-Boning a Flat Fish for Stuffing

Method

Medium to large flat fish, such as sole and plaice, can be partially skinned, boned and left whole for stuffing, and then either baked as here, or crumbed and fried.

Remove the head and gills. Trim the fins, if you like, and remove the dark skin (above).

To make the stuffing for 4 sole, cut 2 carrots, 2 well-washed leeks and 1 small bulb fennel into matchsticks, then stir-fry in 75g (3oz) butter with 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger for 2 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons dry sherry and cook for 2 more minutes. Season well.

  1. Any variety of ingredients can be used to make a stuffing for pocketed fish. Here, stir-fried ginger-flavoured vegetables are used, and the fish is served with boiled new potatoes with thyme.

  2. Cut down one side of the backbone on the skinned side, starting 1cm (½in) from head end. Cut the flesh away in a sawing motion, keeping the knife flat to the nb bones. Do not remove the fillets. Repeat along the other side of the backbone.

  3. To remove the backbone slide the knife in from the head end between the flesh and the backbone, to loosen the flesh on the other side of the bones. Fold the fish over and crack the bone in 2 or 3 places to make it easier to remove.

  4. Snip all the way round the edges of the bones and across the tail and head ends of the backbone with small scissors. Using your fingers, pull the backbone and rib bones out and discard. Double check that no small stray bones are still in the flesh.

  5. Divide the stuffing between the boned sole. Place in a roasting tin, cover with foil and bake at 180°C, 350°F, Gas Mark 4 for 20 minutes. Serve with the cooking juices blended with a little cream and spooned on top, if you prefer a richer sauce.

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