There’s no two ways about it, the monkfish, otherwise known as the frogfish, goosefish or sea devil, is one ugly fish, writes James Waller-Davies.
In the piscatorial beauty contest, it’s not going to get the sash and the tiara.
In fact, it’s so unattractive that one website, Mother Nature Network, has the monkfish down as one of the ‘13 ugliest animals on the planet’.
In the water, the monkfish is a swimming grisly, grey head with a dastardly array of spikey, awkward looking teeth. Its mouth is without doubt one of the last places you’d choose to put your hand.
Languishing at the other end is a muscular, stubby tail, which on the larger fish can weigh as much as 10lbs on its own. This is the bit that tastes great.
It’s taken us British quite a while to come round to eating monkfish. Not so many years ago it could be seen discarded and floating in the harbour, a fish either given away or thrown away.
But thanks to foreign holidays and TV chefs, we’ve come round to appreciating the fish once known as ‘poor man’s lobster’ as one of our finest sea fish.
Its flesh is both meaty and robust. As such it will marry well to stronger flavours and in many ways can be used as substitute for meat. This week’s recipes pairs rich Puy lentils in a way often served with winter game, such as pheasant or woodcock, but with roasted monkfish. This recipe is perfect as it is.
Ingredients (serves 4)
4 200g pieces of monkfish tail
4 rashers smoked streaky bacon
200g Puy lentils
1 litre chicken stock
3 sticks celery
2 medium onions
6 cloves garlic
Very finely dice the celery, carrots, onions and garlic, and gently sweat in a heavy-bottomed pan for about 15 minutes.
Add the Puy lentils and half the stock. Heat slowly on the hob, stirring occasionally, forabout an hour, adding more stock as needed, until the lentils are cooked. Season to taste.
To roast the monkfish, lightly oil and season the fish, wrap each piece with a rasher of bacon and roast in the oven at 210C for 10-12 minutes.