WE'RE incredibly lucky to have such a variety of fresh fish and seafood readily available to us in UK waters. Plaice is a longstanding favourite and staple of British cuisine with the UK being one of its biggest consumers - in Victorian times up to 30 million were sold each year at Billingsgate Market in London!
Because of this plaice was, and still is, over-fished so try and look for sustainable sources if possible.
Plaice's enduring popularity has also proved to be its downfall in terms of its gastronomical status – a plentiful and relatively cheap supply meant it was often the only fish on the menu at home or in cafes and pubs, whether battered, breaded or generally overcooked.
You can also sometimes find plaice on the menu in chippys, served up with the customary chips and mushy peas. Its humble status means plaice is often overlooked in culinary circles but I've always been a big fan.
Now is a great time to buy British plaice with its peak season being summer through to mid-winter (outside the spawning season) when it is generally fleshier and tastier.
When buying plaice, look for the bright orange spots on the skin and clear, bright eyes (if buying whole) which are signs of fresh fish. It's also advisable to eat it as fresh as possible because the delicate flavour quickly fades.
Plaice is a lovely versatile fish with a tender and moist texture and sweet yet subtle flavour. This makes it suitable for a variety of cooking methods and also means it can take sauces and strong flavours well.
However, whether grilling, baking, poaching or frying, it only takes minutes to cook otherwise the flavour and texture are ruined.
As with other white fish, plaice is high in protein and low in fat and calories as well as being inexpensive and tasty. This makes it perfect for a midweek family dinner or you can jazz it up with a zingy sauce for a lovely weekend treat.
Plaice with Prawns, Capers and White Wine
Ingredients (serves 2)
1 large fillet or plaice or 2 smaller fillets
150ml white wine
4 spring onions, sliced
1 tsp. capers
Juice of ½ lemon
Flat leaf parsley
Salt and pepper
Drizzle the fish with olive oil and season with a little salt and pepper.
In a saucepan, melt the butter and add the spring onions and white wine. Allow to simmer for a few minutes until the liquid has reduced by a third and thickened slightly.
Meanwhile, heat a large, dry, non-stick frying pan until smoking hot. Cook the plaice skin-side up for three minutes before turning over and removing the pan from the heat. Allow to rest in the pan for a further 3-5 minutes.
Add the prawns, lemon juice, capers and parsley to the wine and onions in the saucepan and stir for a couple of minutes until warmed through.
To serve, plate up the plaice and spoon the sauce over the top.