This flatfish, popular in France because of its superb flavour and delicate texture, has inspired many classic dishes such as Poached Sole Bonne Femme, Sole Veronique and Sole a la Meunière. With dark brown skin and a longer and narrower shaped body than other flatfish, Dover Sole has a crisp white flesh, firm to touch, with an almost sweet taste. Dover sole were named after the fishing port that landed the most sole in the 19th century. Slip sole or ‘tongue’ is used to describe a small Dover sole less than 340g. The best choices for Dover or common sole is from the North Sea and eastern and western English Channel where stocks are classified as healthy. Dover sole from the Hastings Fleet trammel net, gill net and otter trawl fisheries in the eastern English Channel are certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) as environmentally responsible or sustainable fisheries and are the more sustainable choices from these areas. Avoid eating immature sole (less than 30cm) and fresh (not previously frozen) fish caught during the breeding season (April-June).
Sole is a right-eyed flatfish (eyes on the right hand side of the body) and belongs to the family of flatfishes known as Soleidae. Common sole become sexually mature at 3-5 years, when 25-35cm long, the males being somewhat smaller than the females. It can attain lengths of 60-70cm and weigh 3kg.The maximum reported age is 26 years. Sole is a nocturnal predator and therefore more susceptible to capture by fisheries at night than in daylight.
As it’s often too firm to cook immediately after being caught, it is usually best after one or two days when the texture and flavour is enhanced. Fish of 400- 450g are perfect for serving whole a la meunière – skinned both sides, dusted in seasoned flour and pan- fried. A 680g fish will provide two portion-size fillets.