Sunday, 24 January 2016

Monkfish Masala

This is a throwback to 2009's Great British Menu when Glynn Purnell produced a dish that ended up on the final menu, Monkfish Masala. I had a dish similar to this when visiting Purnell's restaurant a couple of years ago. The monkfish was cooked the same way, sous-vide after being salt-brined and served with slow braised beef and lentils and confit parsnip. The dish was the best of our tasting menu on the day and ever since then I've been waiting for the recipe for just how they got the fish so good that day.

You have to love Glynn's humour, in this book you will come across anecdotes from his kitchen life including such tales as a threatening to pinch a chef's privates with a live lobster and a family member having an unfortunate reaction to liquorice. All spiced up with some typically foul kitchen language, it's a right laugh. Of course there's recipe's - and decent one's at that.

Starting off the recipe requires some step's in advance. To make the pickled carrots you have to begin a week or two in advance by adding a blend of spices to vegetable oil and then drying carrot slices in the oven. I decided to cut the carrots into strips as they appear in the book which resulted in a drying time of just over an hour in a 90C oven. Lower temperatures I guess can take overnight dependant on the size of your carrot slices. The dried carrots then go into the oil and spice mixture and sit in the fridge (being short on time I placed my carrots in for 2 days).

Pickled carrots dehydrating
Monkfish salting stage

Monkfish seems to appear in the shops/fishmonger's one minute and be gone the next, its not a fish that's going to win any beauty contests so maybe that's why....luckily though Aldi are clever enough to realise the demand for monkfish in my life and have began to stock fresh fillets, go get some! These fillets are quickly covered in rock salt to draw out the moisture and firm the flesh then the salt gets washed off with the fillets wrapped up in a cloth and placed in the fridge to dry further making it ideal for roasting.

Once the fish had rested in the fridge I dusted it in tandoori masala spice powder that was lurking in my cupboard. Glynn uses his own spice mix containing a mixture of various spices ground up in a spice grinder which sadly I don't own. The fillets were then sealed in a sous-vide bag and left in the fridge until the time came to cook.

Monkfish under pressure
Coconut prep - yes really!
Coconut strips

With the sous-vide set to 63C the fish goes in to cook for 11 minutes giving an incredible texture and sweetness with barely a hint of 'fishy' taste. The other components were the garnishes, which can be made within the last twenty minutes. Remember that advert from the 90's for the chocolate bar 'Bounty' where the coconut fall's from the tree onto the sand and cracks open? Well it's a shame it doesn't happen in real life! This coconut wasn't letting me in, after drilling holes (yes, with a drill) in the base and letting the water out, I attacked it with a meat cleaver, a heavy knife and even a rolling pin, without joy. A final smash on the kitchen floor finally prised the shell open and allowed the flesh to be sliced thinly on a mandolin.

Staying with the coconut theme I set about making the reduced coconut cream which involved reducing coconut milk flavoured with kaffir lime leaf and salt until thick. While that was happening I got on with the spiced lentils which is similar to a traditional Indian Dahl with flavours of chilli, coriander and lime added it was delicious and very fragrant.

Spiced lentils
Coconut cream
Roasting monkfish

All that was left to do was to toast some of the coconut slices, leaving some in their fresh state for colour and alternate texture and roast the monkfish briefly in a hot pan with a little butter. To plate, the lentils go on surrounded by the monkfish and a pool of the coconut cream topped with the fresh coriander, pickled carrots and coconut strips.

The final plate

Love, love, love sous-vide cooked fish. The texture was just the same as in the restaurant, so good. The lentils were spicy and provided a great base for the dish, bringing it together. On a slight negative I do wish that I'd followed instruction to leave the carrots for two weeks as the texture was still a bit crunchy but tasted great. It's not such a bad dish to put together and well worth the time invested in the fish preparation in particular, definitely a process I will be using again. The coconut strips and the tandoori coating on the monkfish give a smokey element to the dish which completes it beautifully. All in all a very good fish course.

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