Monkfish used to be a special favourite of Mediterranean countries - it is called rape in Spain, lotte in France and sometimes angler fish in England. It is an ugly fish and is also called sea devil and frogfish. It can grow to 1.5 metres, but more than half of its body is taken up by its ugly head! It is only the tail that is normally eaten; this weighs between 1 and 2 kg and is sold whole or as a fillet. Back in the 1960s monkfish was cheaper than cod; it was looked down on and sales were low. Then monkfish was taken up by TV cooks, and the amount sold increased dramatically (and so did the price!). It can still be rather expensive, but there is so little waste that it is real value for money.
It has a firm, white flesh, which can be grilled, poached, baked or fried and eaten hot or cold. It used to be cut into chunks, deep fried and sold as scampi.
One 500g monkfish tail
350g vegetables, thinly sliced, for example, onions, carrots, celery or leeks
½ pint dry white wine, fish stock or cider
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed, or 1 teaspoon garlic purée
1 tablespoon plain flour
225g sliced tomatoes
A few herbs, thyme for example
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
Wash and dry the monkfish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and lightly coat with the flour.
Heat the butter in a casserole or frying pan. Fry the fish over a moderate heat, until it is brown on all sides. Remove from the pan.
Fry the vegetables (not tomatoes) in the pan for a few minutes until golden brown.
Add the tomatoes and garlic.
Return the fish to the pan, add the bouquet garni and the wine, fish stock or cider.
Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes until the fish is tender.
Carefully remove the fish from the pan, and place on a warmed serving dish. Remove bouquet garni and arrange the vegetables around the fish. Pour the cooking liquid over.
Serve with creamed potatoes and green vegetables, or a green salad.
Lotte du pêcheur
Lemon-baked monkfish with prawns in a garlic sauce. This dish takes only 30 minutes.
500g monkfish fillet, cut into 4
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 onions, chopped finely
1 celery stalk, chopped finely
1 carrot, chopped finely
1 garlic clove, crushed, or 1 teaspoon
of garlic purée
2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon plain flour
½ pint dry white wine
1 tablespoon tomato purée
100g shelled prawns
Heat the oven to 200°C gas 6.
Wash and dry the monkfish and put into a casserole.
Season with salt and pepper.
Melt the butter and pour over the fish with the lemon juice.
Cover and bake in the centre of the oven for 25 minutes.
While it is cooking, fry the celery, onion and carrot until soft, but not brown.
Add the garlic or garlic purée to the vegetables with the flour. Cook for one minute.
Gradually add the wine and tomato paste, stirring all the time, and bring to the boil, simmer for 10 minutes, stirring often.
Strain sauce into a pan, add shelled prawns. Bring back to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning.
Arrange the fish on warmed serving dish and spoon the sauce over. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Cut a 500g monkfish fillet into 4 or 5 steaks. Dip into beaten egg, and press into coarsely-ground black pepper or garlic black pepper (you can buy both of these ready-ground). Bake in a hot-to-moderate oven (190°C, Gas 6) for about 15 minutes. This is a fiery dish, but the monkfish has a robust texture that can cope with the peppery coating.