Famously unattractive, monkfish is perfect for those that aren’t sure if they like fish or not and its firm texture means it often draws comparison to meat in both taste and cookery methods. It has one centre bone and no small pin bones to worry about, which again makes it easy to prepare, cook and serve at home.
"It satisfies a universal desire for firm, meaty, boneless fish. Its flavour is not pronounced, though the small tails have a sweet freshness which, combined with the texture, make it one of my favourite fish. Particularly suited to chargrilling and is also great in curries because it remains intact after cooking." Rick
Monkfish is pleasingly versatile and can be paired with punchy flavours from around the world, as well as classic British ingredients too. Jack Stein’s Sri
Lankan monkfish curry recipe, featured in his debut book, World on a Plate, is a great way place to start – he says “I use monkfish in this recipe which is meatier and less susceptible to overcooking than many other fish. I find it to be the perfect partner in a fish curry as it is quite bland and so handles the spice extremely well.”
Read on to discover a variety of ways to cook monkfish at home.
Monkfish tend to landed without their rather scary, over-sized heads in tact – which means most monkfish is available to buy as a tail. As mentioned above, the tail has one central bone that divides two fillets. If you purchase a whole tail with the skin on, you’ll need to follow these steps to prepare it for cooking (alternatively, ask your fishmonger to do the hard
work for you – we always sell it ready to cook).
1. First remove the skin from the monkfish tail. Put the tail belly-side down on a board. Release and pull back some of the skin at the wider end of the tail so that you can get a sharp, flexible-bladed knife underneath to cut through the fine dorsal spines.
2. Grab hold of the wider end of the tail in one hand and the skin in the other and briskly pull it away, down over the tail.
3. Remove the two fillets by cutting along either slide of the thick backbone with a sharp, thin-bladed, flexible knife, keeping the blade as close to the bone as you can.
4. Pull off the thin membrane that encases the fillets, releasing it with the knife where necessary. If you don’t remove the membrane it will shrink during cooking and cause the monkfish to distort and become tough.
Baked or roasted monkfish is really rather good. The best way to utilise an oven in the monkfish cookery process is to first pan-fry the fish in an overproof pan with a splash of oil for 3-4 minutes to add some colour before moving into the oven for around 10 minutes. Rick’s roast monkfish with crushed potatoes, olive oil and watercress recipe is a fab place to start your monkfish cookery journey.
This method of roasting monkfish works well for a fishy-twist on Sunday roast too - get creative with your own recipes or follow Rick's.
Pan-frying works really well with monkfish as it’s so meaty. Make sure you pat the fish dry beforehand - this will help to get a good colour on the flesh and a good crack of pepper and sprinkle of salt is also a must. Pan-frying a fillet of monkfish is exactly the same as pan-frying a chicken breast, start with a little oil in the pan and finish with some foaming butter to add colour and flavour.
When pan-frying monkfish, you can also make a simple sauce/dressing by deglazing the pan with some balsamic vinegar. This will pick up all the flavours left behind after cooking.
As mentioned above, it works well to combine pan-frying and roasting to help keep the monkfish nice and moist, whilst imparting maximum flavour into your dish. Rick’s classic recipe for roast monkfish with Parma ham and sauerkraut does exactly this. By wrapping the subtle fish in salty ham you’re not only adding flavour but also a layer of protection to the fillets of fish. Sear the wrapped monkfish fillets in a hot frying pan for 1-2 minutes before transferring to the pre-heated oven at 200°C for another 8-10 minutes. This served with a suitably tangy sauerkraut is a really memorable way to enjoy monkfish for a special occasion at home.
Spaghetti with monkfish is one of Rick’s best-loved midweek supper dishes that can be cooked in under 20 minutes. He pairs pan-fried bite-size chunks of monkfish fillet (they take about 2 minutes to cook) with chilli, garlic, tomato and parsley, all tossed through from freshly cooked spaghetti. if you love crab linguine, this recipe is a must try.
Order Cornish monkfish fillets from Stein’s Online Fishmonger straight to your door, nationwide, to try these tips and recipes on your friends at family at home.