Recipe: Knots of sole and red onion marmalade

RICKY Valla moved from Mauritius to the UK and from business studies to qualifying as a motor engineer to becoming a chef, but he says he has found his niche now and is 'loving it'. He has been at The Bean Tree in Harpenden for almost five years, moving up from sous chef to head chef and now executive chef, running an operation that offers French cuisine with a touch of English traditional and has put his restaurant among Hertfordshire's best.His chef training took in college studies followed by practical experience in London at the likes of the Ivy, Le Caprice and various hotels but he says the Capital scene has changed, hence the move to the country. 'In London, the business is becoming too fast,' he says. 'There is no real cooking and no passion - it's a case of get the customers in, take their money, get them out, re-lay the table and start all over again. Places stop becoming fine dining restaurants and become bistros and I didn't want that.'An agency found him the job in Harpenden and everything changed: 'We work with fresh ingredients, offer a quality service and they just let me get on with it, which is why I am still here'. Beyond that, his philosophy is simple - all dishes at The Bean Tree are special because he loves doing them 'and that's why they're on the menu'; and 'we don't put too much on the plate, but what's there looks good and tastes good. Put too much on the plate and you can't see the real picture.'Knots of sole and red onion marmalade with tomato sauce and oregano oil

Ingredients (Serves 4)4 lemon sole skinned, filleted and halved (180-200g of flesh each) - ask for the bones, which you need for the stock300ml dry white wine20g melted butter100g cold butter cut into small cubes1 carrot sliced in half2 ripe plum tomatoes (blanched, peeled and chopped)1 tsp tomato pureeClove crushed garlicchopped onionBay leaf, sprig of thyme, fresh oreganoSalt, pepper and little olive oil

Sauce1. Take the remaining fish bones and chop roughly. Wash them and place in a pot with the carrot and half the chopped onion, bay leaf, thyme and white wine. Simmer gently for 20 minutes and allow to cool. 2. In a saucepan, warm the olive oil and sweat off the rest of the onions and the garlic. Add in the tomato puree and tomatoes. Add a little of the fish stock and cook at low heat for at least half an hour. Do not allow to dry out - add more stock as required. 3. Blitz the sauce and pass through a fine sieve and then add the small cubes of cold butter and mix through the sauce to give a shiny finish (called mont�e au beurre). Add more fish stock to give a pouring consistency. Cool until ready to serve.

Oregano oil4. Pick out the herb leaves and blanch (in boiling water for 10/20 seconds then refresh immediately under cold water), take half a bunch of oregano to blitz with some vegetable oil. Use as decoration at the end.

Red onion marmalade2 peeled large red onions, finely sliced2 soupspoons clear honey1 cloveSmall bay leaf, sprig fresh thyme500ml red wine2 tsps redcurrant jellySalt and pepper


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5. Place all the ingredients together in a pot and cook slowly with a cartouche (greaseproof paper cover to fit inside pot with a small hole in the centre) until total evaporation of the wine. Season with the salt and pepper to taste. 6. Tie the half fillets of sole in loose knots and place on a baking tray. Brush with the melted butter and season well. Bake at 200C in a pre-heated oven for 7-10 minutes. 7. To serve, place the sole in the centre of a warmed plate, pour the warmed sauce over the top and garnish with the red onion marmalade. Drizzle a small amount of the oregano oil around the fish for decoration. The dish can be served with new potatoes, rice or pasta.Get the tasteThe Bean Tree20A Leyton RoadHarpenden AL5 2HU01582 460901

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