21 May, 2007

May recipe: Plaice rolls with asparagus

Asparagus has been used in the kitchen at least since the 3rd century AD, when the Roman writer Apicius included it in his cookbook. Apparently it’s the source of the name of the amino acid asparagine. I never knew that, even though I used to be able to draw asparagine's chemical structure; there are some things they don’t cover in biochemistry courses.

May is the height of the asparagus season in Britain. We have a row in the garden, nicely mature now after being planted about 10 years ago, and as asparagus spears can grow at an amazing rate when the weather is warm, we have rather a lot of it at this time of year. Luckily there never seems to be a problem eating it all. I particularly like asparagus with delicate dishes, such as fish, omelettes and quiches. Here’s one fish dish that goes very well with asparagus and the first of the season’s Jersey new potatoes. If you don’t like or can’t get asparagus, substitute another vegetable of your choice or a green side salad. I imagine the rolls would work equally well with any thin white fish fillets, though I always use plaice.

Plaice rolls (serves 2)

2 plaice fillets
2-3 oz (approx 50-75 g) mushrooms
2 large spring onions
1 tablespoon (1 x 15 ml spoon) chopped fresh herbs of your choice, e.g. parsley, chervil, chives, tarragon (or dried herbs if fresh herbs aren’t available)

For the cheese sauce:
0.5 oz (approx 15 g) butter
0.5 tablespoon (0.5 x 15 ml spoon) flour
5 fluid oz (0.25 pint, or approx 140 ml) milk
1 oz cheese, grated, crumbled or chopped into small pieces. The only requirement is that it should melt in a reasonable time. I generally use an inexpensive medium Cheddar, but any hard or semi-hard cheese of your choice will do.

Chop the mushrooms and spring onions.
Fry gently in butter until softened.
Remove from the heat, stir in the herbs and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Spread half the mushroom and onion mixture on each plaice fillet, and roll each fillet up like a Swiss roll.
Put the plaice rolls in a buttered ovenproof dish.

To make the sauce:
Melt the butter in a small saucepan.
Remove from the heat and stir in the flour.
Gradually blend in the milk a little at a time, stirring thoroughly after each addition to remove the lumps. (Despite the dire warnings of school cookery teachers, a few lumps aren’t the end of the world, so don’t worry if your sauce isn’t perfectly smooth. As long as you don’t slosh in all the milk at once it should work well enough).
Return the pan to the heat and bring to the boil, stirring all the time. The sauce will thicken as it starts to boil. Reduce the heat, stir in the grated cheese, and simmer for a minute or so until the cheese has melted. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pour the cheese sauce over the plaice rolls.
Bake in a moderately hot oven, about 180 C, for 25-30 minutes until the plaice is cooked and the sauce is bubbling and just starting to brown.
Serve with asparagus (or other vegetable of your choice) or salad, and new potatoes or rice.


Meghan said...

It took me a long time to acclimate myself to the taste, but now that I like asparagus I'd like to try this receipe out! Thanks!

Bernita said...

There is no other word for this recipe but DROOL!

Carla said...

Hope you enjoy it!