Sogliole alla Fiorentina

Spinach. When you see 'alla Fiorentina' or something 'Florentine' in a cookery book or on a menu, it will invariably involve spinach. There are a few exceptions, including those deliciously addictive nut, dried fruit, and chocolate confections, which certainly don't contain any of the iron- and calcium-laden leafy greens, but mostly it is about spinach.

As with any regional or traditional recipe, there isn't a definitive way to prepare fillets of sole with spinach. Some people poach the fish first, some people roll the fish around a creamy-spinach filling, some people make a creamed spinach, others make a plainer spinach and finish it with a béchamel sauce. There's plenty of variation, but crikey, there are some utter abominations out there, too. Using a tomato sauce could possibly, conceivably just pass for some variation on a theme, but who in the hell thought that carrot was a good addition to the mix? Sheesh no!

Now, this is my recipe. It's about as authentic as something that has been cooked by a woman in a kitchen in east London, using a damn good Italian cookbook, her mother's knowledge of Tuscan cookery that comes from having lived there, and her own experiences of hanging around an Italian farmhouse kitchen and eating in trattorie. So this means that for every Italian who looks at the recipe, you'll be told most effusively that it's wrong, and that their nonna makes it better.

Guess what? I like it.


  • 250g (8oz) frozen spinach, thawed and well drained
  • 1 tspn butter
  • freshly grated nutmeg to taste
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1tbsp butter
  • 1tbsp plain flour
  • 150ml (5floz) double cream (about two-thirds of a cup, I think)


Start with the spinach. Make sure that is properly drained. I put mine a sieve, squashed it with a fork lots, and left it to stand for a bit, too. Then I melted the first teaspoon of butter and mixed it in along with the salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Cover the base of an ovenproof dish, it needs to measure roughly 20cm by 30cm by 5cm (8"x12"x2"), with the spinach.

In a large frying pan melt the other teaspoon of butter and bring the glass of wine to the simmer. Add the salt and pepper and then poach the fish fillets in the wine for 30 seconds. They shouldn't be cooked properly before you remove them to the spinach dish.

Over a higher flame, reduce the wine to about half of its original volume.

Melt the tablespoon of butter in a saucepan and whisk in the flour to make a roux. Add the now-reduced wine next, whisking constantly to stop it from descending into an unpalatable lumpy mess, and then pour in the cream. Yes, you're still whisking here. Cook the sauce until it's thick, then pour it over the fish.

Place everything in a moderately hot oven (200° Celsius) for no more than fifteen minutes, until the sauce is bubbling.

Serve it with potatoes roasted in olive oil with rosemary and garlic, a glass of white wine, and enjoy.

Music to cook to: The Firebird, Stravinsky

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