There’s a lot going on at Downton these days, but one of the more intriguing plotlines is the slow-motion trainwreck that is Thomas’s crush on Jimmy. I never thought I’d say this, but oh, Thomas, you poor man. O’Brien has you in her sights and she’s going to squash you like a bug. And honestly, did the whole Oscar Wilde trial (which would have all gone down within your lifetime) teach you nothing?

It’s impossible (for me, at least) to watch this without thinking of the great wit and writer, so this week’s recipe is inspired by him. Unsurprisingly, his favourite tipple was champagne—he drank it constantly, but I’ve already done champagne cocktail, so let’s go a different route, shall we? Champagne is more than just a delicious drink; the Edwardians loved using it in sauces, like this one. It’s also said to be an aphrodisiac, so it’s perfect for Valentine’s Day! Surprise your sweetie with this delicious, sophisticated dish.

Pan-Fried Turbot with Champagne Sauce

Recipe by James Martin

110g/110g/4oz butter
4 x 200g/7oz turbot or other white fish fillet (salmon also works), pin-boned, skin on
2 medium shallots, finely sliced
150ml/5fl oz white wine
150ml/5fl oz fish stock
150ml/5fl oz double cream
2 leeks, green part discarded, very finely julienned
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked
110ml/4fl oz champagne
2 tbsp chopped chives


Heat a frying pan until hot, add a few knobs of the butter and the fish, skin-side down.

Cook over a medium heat for two minutes until the skin is crisp and the fish is cooked two-thirds of the way through.

Flip over and cook for another minute, then remove from the heat and leave to rest in a warm place for one minute.

Heat a frying pan until medium-hot, add 50g/2oz of the butter and the shallots and fry for a couple of minutes, or until softened but not browned.

Add the white wine and cook until the volume of liquid has reduced by half, then add the fish stock and cook until reduced by half again.

Add the cream and cook once more until reduced by one-third.

Strain through a fine sieve into a clean pan, check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

Heat another frying pan until hot, add the rest of the butter and leeks and fry over a high heat until just wilted, but still bright green.

Season with a little salt and black pepper.

To serve, return the sauce to the heat and warm until just simmering, then add the champagne and chives and stir through.

Pile the leeks into the centre of four soup plates, then top with the turbot, skin-side up. Spoon the champagne sauce over the top.

Photo: Jim Franco

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