Michelin-starred chef Glynn Purnell has delivered this recipe which, in his words, is “a lazy ‘top end’ dinner party main course” for those who don’t have the time or inclination to spend hours in the kitchen. It can be prepared in advance and popped into the oven or on the barbecue while you and your guests are tucking in to your starters.
The dense white meat of the monkfish, once known as poor man’s lobster, is studded with a smoky, piquant chorizo which oozes its rich paprika red oil into the fish as it bakes inside its foil parcel. The butterbean stew – which makes for a great weekday supper in its own right – can be part-prepared in advance but only takes minutes to make on the night if you use that great store -cupboard standby, a tin or two of pre-cooked beans.
Glynn says: “I first came across a similar dish at Hibiscus in Ludlow, years ago, before I went to work with Claude Bosi. Claude had studded the monkfish with slices of lomo, a dry cured Spanish pork tenderloin which is a leaner, more subtle (and costly) alternative to chorizo.”
When buying fish, Glynn recommends a good fishmonger who you can trust to provide sustainable, responsibly-sourced fish. Monkfish which is caught by day boats using the wreck fishing method, where a net is dropped over a wreck and left until the fish swim into it rather than being dragged across the ocean floor is what you should be looking for.
Glynn gets his goat’s cheese from Brock Hall Farm in Bridgnorth, a small artisan holding run by Sarah Hampton who produces five different award-winning cheeses from her herd of Pure Saanen goats.
“A young, fresh cheese with a slightly acidic flavour and smooth texture is what you need for this recipe,” says Glynn. “You don’t want a strong one whose flavour will overpower the creamy nuttiness of the butterbeans and the earthiness of the spinach. Try and buy British and local if you can – there are so many fantastic artisan cheese producers throughout the Midlands whose wares are available not just from delis but also from an increasing number of big supermarkets.
“The thing about this dish is it’s simple to make but the end result is impressive and there’s no excuse for not giving it a go.
“When you’ve unwrapped the parcel and placed the fish on a serving board, take it to the loudest, lairiest of your friends and get them to carve. That’ll shut them up!”
Chorizo Studded Monkfish (Serves 4)
* 1kg monkfish, tail bone in, skinned.
* 120g cooking chorizo ( 20g for the monkfish and 100g for the butterbeans).
* Pinch of ground ginger.
* 1 lime.
* Olive oil for searing fish.
* 50g butter.
* 500g butterbeans, (that’s approximately two 400g cans, drained).
* 150g young leaf spinach.
* 150g soft goat’s cheese, rind removed.
* Salt and black pepper.
* 150ml chicken stock.
* Watercress for garnish.
Preheat oven to Gas 4, 350F/ 180C-200C (l60C fan).
First prepare the monkfish by cutting the fin and trimming the tail using scissors. There is just one main bone and no small bones to worry about. Supermarket fish counters tend to sell it ready skinned and most good fishmongers will skin it for you but there is still the fine-veined membrane to remove which is a fiddly process, made a lot easier if your knife is very sharp. Use a long-bladed knife and push it between the meat and the membrane as far as it will go until you’ve loosened the membrane, then just pull and cut it off. You will probably have to do this a few times but take solace in the knowledge that once this fiddly prep is done, you’ll fly through the rest of the recipe.
Using a small paring knife cut approximately 12 small holes all the way down the monkfish tail either side of the tailbone.
Cut 20g of the chorizo into small fine batons, approximately two cm long and push them deep into the holes in the fish to make sure the flavours seep into the meat.
Drizzle a little olive oil on the fish and rub it all over with your hands. Sear in a hot griddle or frying pan until tinged brown on both sides. At this point, you can add a knob of butter, approximately 25g and let this melt and bubble around the fish.
Take the fish and place carefully onto a sheet of foil, lined with a square of parchment onto which you have placed overlapping slices of lime. Use the end quarter of the lime to squeeze over the fish and season with sea salt, black pepper and a pinch of ground ginger. If you want to you can add the buttery juices from the pan.
Bring up the two long sides and overlap them crimping as you go to leave enough space above the fish for the steam to circulate. Bring in the two sides and scrunch to seal the parcel completely.
Place on a roasting tin/baking tray and roast in the preheated oven for 15 -20 mins. You can check the fish for doneness by touching it – it should be firm, but not too firm and the flesh milky white.
Once the fish is in the oven and has about 10 minutes to go, drain and rinse the butterbeans with fresh cold water.
Cut the remaining chorizo into tiny one cm square pieces and dry fry it in a deep sauté pan or medium saucepan.
Add two thirds of the chicken stock and simmer for a couple of minutes until the stock has reduced and is a rich red colour.
Add the butter beans and stir, simmering them for a couple more minutes.
Add the crumbled goat’s cheese, reserving a little for the presentation and stir through.
Add the spinach leaves, then stir them through quickly until they wilt and finally the remaining 25g of butter. At this point you may need to add a little more chicken stock to get a soft stew like consistency.
This looks impressive on a large deep platter with the fish placed on top of the butterbeans and garnished with some sprigs of baby watercress. Sprinkle the remaining goat’s cheese over the butterbeans. To carve the monkfish, use a sharp knife and cut against the bone all the way down on both sides to give you two long fillets which can then be cut into two portions each.
Want to get ahead and have less to do when your guests arrive? Prepare the fish and store covered in the fridge until you’re ready to cook it. This can be done up to 24 hours earlier.
The butterbeans can also be part-prepped, then reheated and the spinach and goat’s cheese added at the last minute.
Freezing your small batons of chorizo makes it easier to push them into the fish without crumbling.
For non-meat eaters smoked salmon is a good alternative to chorizo.
You could also cook the fish on the barbecue, putting the parcel on the grill above medium low coals for approximately 20mins. Or if you want to be really macho you could
make a gap in the coals themselves and place the parcel directly in the base of the barbecue surrounded by the white ash covered coals. They shouldn’t be glowing red at all as this means they’re too hot and will burn the delicate fish.
Brockhall Farm Artisan Goat’s Cheese is available from Anderson & Hill Deli in Great Western Arcade (0121) 236 2829 and Selfridges Food Hall, www.brockhallfarm.co.uk .
For useful information on buying sustainable fish www.goodfishguide.co.uk
* Purnell’s Restaurant, Cornwall Street, Purnell’s Bistro and Gingers Bar, Newhall Street. www.purnellsrestaurant.co.uk
Kitchen Confidential with Glynn Purnell
What’s your first food memory?
From childhood, all the things my mum made – her bread and butter pudding (on the menu at Purnell’s Bistro), her boiled ham hock or pig’s trotters eaten with salt and vinegar crisps on a Saturday night watching Blind Date. And my dad’s Saturday night curries inspired by Madhur Jaffrey TV series at the time. He always made an occasion of it and served the curry and rice in big serving dishes on the table like she did.
Who taught you to cook?
Apart from my mum, my first experience of a professional kitchen was at the Metropole Hotel at the NEC where I started by flipping burgers and making salads. I was there for a six years and gained a huge amount of knowledge by working in every section of the kitchen and catering for everything from room service to elaborate wedding banquets and a la carte.
Favourite TV dinner?
In my house, Mondays are known as a la carte Monday because it’s my day off from the restaurant and I have time to cook whatever the kids want – there’s often three or four different dishes on the go. But the kids’ favourite is homemade meatballs in tomato sauce with spaghetti and after we’ve packed them off to bed, I’ll make garlic and chilli prawns and a lemon risotto for me and Kerry as we sit down to catch up with EastEnders.
Favourite food to eat?
I like salad but I particularly like eating anything that eats salad. There’s a pub close to my house that serves me the biggest steak ever, it’s virtually hanging over the side of the plate. A couple of beers and a good sirloin and I’m a happy man.
Who has been your biggest inspiration?
My mum and Claude Bosi (the chef patron of two Michelin-starred Hibiscus), which moved to London from Ludlow in 2002. I worked with him for a season and it was an amazing experience. He completely revolutionised classic French cuisine by applying traditional techniques to new ingredients and flavour combinations and has been hugely influential in remodelling modern British cooking.
What’s your pet hate in the kitchen?
A lazy approach, not giving things a go. So make this recipe, or else!
Apart from a knife, what’s your go to gadget?
A small spoon shaped whisk, known as a miracle whisk, brilliant for the smallest quantity of sauce or mayonnaise.
Most memorable meals?
In restaurant terms, it was as Alzak in Spain’s gourmet capital, San Sebastian and my first ever meal at Hibiscus in Ludlow. Both were so adventurous, ground-breaking they blew my mind.
Heston Blumenthal, James Martin, the Hairy Bikers, Adam Woodyatt, Andi Peters, Marcus Wareing – my mum!
At home, on Christmas Day, when there were 12 of us to eat and a 20lb turkey to roast. The oven kept tripping out and I had to virtually stand over it for the whole cooking time with my finger on the pilot light.
Power failure in the restaurant has also been a challenge. We have been known to cook by candlelight when only the gas burners have been working. Not quite the definition of a romantic meal that most people think of!