This is my dish of the month (so far). I love monkfish, though the days when it was dirt cheap and known as the poor man’s lobster are long past. Still, it’s worth pushing the boat out for, if you’ll pardon the pun.
The coconut dal is, I think, non-negotiable here. It’s the combination of flavours and textures that makes this so good. I’ve used the dal elsewhere on these pages, but I’ve tweaked it a bit for this recipe, and I didn’t have any fresh coriander so I used parsley. Different flavours but both good. I served it all with flatbreads, and a carrot ribbon salad, dressed with black onion seeds and lemon juice.
Please don’t be put off by the long list of spices for the tandoori spice mix. It’s really quick to make. You can of course use a commercial mixture but I quite like to know exactly what’s gone into mine. You’ll have more than you need for this recipe but it will keep well, sealed in an airtight jar.
280-300g monkfish tail fillet, the thick end
1 tbs rapeseed oil
A knob of butter
Squeeze of lemon juice
For the tandoori spice mix:
1 tbsp each of salt and powdered ginger, cumin, coriander, paprika, turmeric and cayenne.
For the dal:
100g red lentils
1/2 tspn turmeric
2 tbsp butter
1 tspn cumin seeds
2 shallots or equivalent in onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 fat clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 small medium hot chilli, seeds included, finely chopped
2 heaped tbsp tinned chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (or coriander)
2 or 3 heaped tbsp creamed coconut
Salt and pepper, to taste
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Cut the monkfish into two even fillets, dust all over with the tandoori spice mix and set aside. If you refrigerate it, remember to take it out 10 minutes before you start cooking.
Put the lentils in a small pan and add enough cold water to cover them by about an inch. Bring to the boil, skim off any scum, then add the turmeric and a knob of butter (about 1 tbsp). Cover and simmer gently until they’re soft, stirring occasionally.
In a small frying pan, dry-fry the cumin seeds for a minute or two, then pour into a bowl and put to one side. In the same pan, melt another knob of butter and gently fry the garlic, shallots and chilli until the onions are soft and golden. Add the chopped tomatoes and toasted cumin seeds and stir through.
Stir this into the lentils, which should be quite porridgey by now, and add the creamed coconut and chopped parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper, stir well to mix and set aside to keep warm.
Heat an oven-proof, non-stick pan and trickle in the rapeseed oil to cover the base. Add the monkfish fillets and colour them all over, then place in the oven for 10 minutes.
Remove from the oven, place on the hob, and add the butter, water and a squeeze of lemon juice. Once the butter has melted, baste the fish with the spicy juices for a minute or two.
Slice each piece of monkfish into four discs. Divide the dal between two plates and serve the fish on top, garnished with more herbs if you like.