Monkfish has to be one of the ugliest fish in the sea, but it totally makes up for it in taste. The fillets or tails are often slimy and have a thin membrane, which must be removed but don’t let that put you off. The flesh is meaty and has a lobster-like texture and flavour, which is why monkfish is often referred to as “poor-man’s lobster”.
Monkfish is most commonly sold in tails, steaks or if you are lucky, the cheeks. It usually comes skinned and filleted with the pinkish membrane stripped off; if this hasn’t been removed, ask the fishmonger to do it, as it’s a fiddly job. Otherwise pull it off yourself before cooking or it will shrink around the fillet making it twist.
As with all fish it’s so important to choose the freshest fish before buying – it should be firm to the touch and free of an unpleasant odour. When choosing fillets of monkfish, look for pearly white flesh with no discolouration.
If you have made risotto with rice before, then you’ll find this recipe pretty straight forward. The only tricky part is co-ordinating the cooking of the fish at the same time as making the risotto.
The spiced monkfish works so well with the earthy barley and beetroot risotto. The salad is a must as this adds a little acidity which rounds the dish off perfectly.
If you like this recipe, you may like to try Swedish Fish Soup with Saffron Aioli
Spiced monkfish with Barley & Beetroot Risotto
- 180 g pearl barley
- 2 banana shallots finely chopped
- 180 g cooked beetroot peeled and finely diced
- 1 ½ Tbls butter
- 1 Tbls sunflower oil
- 1250 ml fish or chicken stock approximately
- 100 ml dry white wine
- 1 ½ Tbsp creme fraiche
- 4 x 130g portions monkfish all with a similar thickness
- 1 ½ Tbls sunflower oil
- 1 knob butter
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp turmeric
- a good pinch cayenne pepper
- ½ red onion finely sliced into rings
- 3 radish finely sliced
- 1 small handful parsley leaves
- 2 tbls olive oil
- 1 tsp white wine vinegar
- ¼ cucumber small, finely sliced
- Remove the monkfish from the fridge an hour before cooking. Pat dry. Combine the spices and tip onto a plate. Coat the monkfish in the spices. Set to one side. Pour the stock into a saucepan and heat until it just begins to simmer slowly.
- Begin with sautéing the shallots in the butter and sunflower oil until soft and translucent. Next add the barley to the pan and stir it briskly with a wooden spoon so that the grains are coated with the oil and melted butter. Sauté for a minute or so, until there is a slightly nutty aroma. Increase the temperature a little and add the white wine, stir and cook until it has evaporated.
- Add a ladle of hot stock to the barley and stir until the liquid is fully absorbed. When the rice appears almost dry, add another ladle of stock and repeat the process. Halve way through the cooking process, add the finely chopped beetroot, stir.
- Continue adding stock, a ladle at a time, for 25 – 30 minutes or until the grains are tender but still firm to the bite, without being crunchy (al dente). You may not need to add all the stock.
- Once you’re satisfied with the doneness of the barley, stir in the creme fraiche and check the seasoning.
- Combine the salad ingredients and add the oil, vinegar and season. Set to one side.
Cooking the monkfish.
- When the risotto is almost done, heat a heavy based pan with a little sunflower oil to medium-high. Season the monkfish with salt. Add to the pan, followed by a knob of butter, continue to cook for approximately 3 – 4 minutes on one side, depending on the thickness. Flip over and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes. There should be some 'give' if you push it with your finger. Remove from the pan onto a warm plate and rest for 5 minutes.
- Portion out the risotto onto warm plates. Slice the monkfish and place on top of the risotto. Finally add a little of the salad. Serve immediately.
- This recipe will work perfectly with cod too.