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Something fishy...

To Southwold once again, where on our last day we drove down to the harbour for lunch before heading home on the A12. Located about a mile south of the town, Southwold Harbour is home to the local fishing fleet and a variety of huts that appear a little ramshackle at first glance. Don’t be fooled, though; one of these is home to the Sole Bay Fish Company which, in addition to having a fantastic fish counter where you can buy fish directly from the people who caught them (and in some cases smoked them too), has its own fish restaurant that’s only open at lunchtime.

Lunch was really good – although we were told before we even ordered that we couldn’t order anything from the giant fish-tank which contains North Sea fish! After oysters and crevettes (large prawns) for starters, we went for fish and chips, served on wooden platters with the chips in a metal container, in contrast to the mixed selection of plates on the table that we had used for the starters (I had the Dover sole, while Allison went for the lobster!). A lovely little restaurant, and full of character – we’ll be going there again, I have no doubt.

Although this was the first time we’ve eaten there, we have popped into the Sole Bay Fish Company for fish-buying purposes before – last time we were there, we got some very reasonably-priced Dover soles which we took home and, after consulting our recipe books, used to make sole meunière as laid out in Rick Stein’s Seafood (which also had instructions for skinning and pan-frying a flat fish; nice touch). This time, we had a look at the counter and picked up a smoked mackerel and a monkfish tail; fancy, that last one, but no doubt it would be delicious. They were kind enough to put a bag of ice in with the fish for the journey home.

Back home, there was one thing to do with the magnificent-looking smoked mackerel and that was to make the smoked mackerel paté in Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Collection that’s been a favourite of mine for years (usually, we just use supermarket-bought fillets for it); quite simply, the ingredients – mackerel (suitably filleted), cottage cheese, crème fraiche, lemon juice – all get blitzed in a food-processor, with some pepper, salt and nutmeg mixed in.

And what of the monkfish? That was clearly another question for our cookery book collection, and I found the answer (once again) in Rick Stein’s Seafood – roast monkfish with crushed potatoes, olive oil and watercress; something of a less-is-more approach which I have come across in Rick Stein’s recipes before. For him, the fish is very much the main event here, with no need for too much extravagance to back it up. I like that.

The tail required filleting – an easy enough task (I speak as someone who’s done a seafood cookery course at Billingsgate Market and owns a suitably thin and suitably sharp fish-cutting knife); it was then salted and left for 15 minutes while I boiled up some new potatoes. The fish was fried in olive oil before being popped in the oven – the intention was to brown it although mine were still white after the recommended frying-time.

While the fish cooked, I sorted out the potatoes. Rick Stein’s recipe said to add watercress to the potatoes once they’d been crushed but we didn’t have that; we did have some rocket, though, so I improvised – the rocket was wilted in the frying-pan I’d used for the fish, and when I’d drained and crushed the potatoes with some olive oil (with a fork, as suggested!) the rocket was mixed in.

I must admit I was a bit sceptical – this sounded a little bit too easy. Also, the fish hadn’t exactly browned in the frying-pan, and they were still most definitely white when they came out of the oven. So after slicing them I quickly did them in the pan on a high heat for a couple of minutes to give them some colour. Oh, and some olive oil and balsamic (I am not a fan of vinegar but I went along with that) were drizzled on the side.

The result looked pretty fancy; which, I suppose, is what comes from serving the main event on top of the potatoes rather than next to them, and drizzling oil and balsamic around the sides. More to the point, it tasted very good too.

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