Even if you’ve never tried monkfish, you’ve likely noticed it—it’s that big, ugly looking fish on the Furness Fish and Game stall with a huge jaw and razor-sharp teeth, often positioned to look as though it’s attempting to devour the defenceless shellfish laid out beside it on the counter.
The prominence of monkfish on our fish stalls and dinner plates is in fact a relatively recent development—for many years, before we came to appreciate its meaty deliciousness, they were tossed back into the sea as by-catch. If you’re yet to get on board with its rising popularity, now’s the perfect time.
“They’re in really good condition. They’ve just finished breeding so they’re nice and fat,” says Peter of Furness Fish and Game. “We get ours from two places: the Shetland Isles and Cornwall.”
“In terms of texture and the flavours it can hold its own against, it’s similar to halibut or turbot,” explains Luke Hawkins, head chef at The Globe Tavern. “It’s a fantastic fish; I am actually just looking at putting it on the menu here”—watch this space. In the meantime, Luke has myriad suggestions as to how to make the most of this tasty fish at home.
“It’s robust enough to be paired with some strong flavours,” he continues. “You could put it with a red wine sauce or dressing, a lovely butter emulsion—the creaminess cuts through the meatiness of the fish—or a gentleman’s relish, which is a heavy anchovy paste. It also works well with acidic and sour flavours. Apple, for example, is a delicious pairing,” he reels off with enthusiasm.
When it comes to cooking methods, as with most fish, it’s important not to overdo it. “If you overcook it, it’s going to get mushy,” Luke warns. “I like to pan roast it. Just put it in the pan with a bit of oil and lots of butter, then baste it like you would a piece of steak.
“Get a nice bit of colour to it and serve. It doesn’t need to be cooked all the way through—if it’s not completely done in the middle, it’s nothing to worry about. In fact, it’s better served that way. It’s just stunning.”
Ursula Farrigno has hers roasted, paired with seasonal garlic and fresh vegetables. Alternatively, if you’re feeling adventurous, have a go at curing it. “It’s very easy to do and works well,” says Luke. “I recently cured and served it with kelp, preserved lemons and seaweed. There’s so much you can do with it—it’s a beautiful fish.”