Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Chargrilled monkfish with artichokes, speck and cannellini beans

After a brief break for a couple of weeks it’s great to be back with another recipe. It was fantastic to get away for a few days up to the Katie’s family farm in Scotland, where the deafening silence and surrounding plush countryside provided a stark and welcome contrast to the frantic rush of the city. I love the outdoors, but funnily enough I do find that it all links back into my love of food. Strolling through the fields we saw deer, hares, pheasants and partridges along with abundant cows and lambs. I couldn’t help thinking that they would all make a fine feast. Even walking next to the river had me eagle-eyed for wild salmon, now coming into their prime season. 

Alas on this occasion, those animals remained only for our viewing pleasure. But when it came to the eating there was certainly no disappointment. Upon arrival I marched straight into town to procure a weight of the finest Stornoway black pudding, carrying it proudly like a child who had won a sporting trophy. That was breakfast sorted. Other meals included hot, vinegary fish suppers (always haddock north of the border) by the side of a wind-battered loch, and soothing barley-filled broths huddled around the fire. All humble stuff, but in a situation that will be ingrained in my memory for a long while to come. On the last evening we celebrated with the rest of the family; I rolled a pig in foraged wild garlic and forgot about it in the oven for most of a day, only raising the temperature only at the last minute to blister the fat into a crisp brittle. I won’t even detail the quality of the leftover sandwiches on the journey home…
I truly digress as per usual. But now back in London I’m eager to get cooking again. Despite running round like a busy lunatic for most of the week, on my days off I love nothing more than messing around in the kitchen creating new recipes. This monkfish dish combined the comfort of a chunky, grilled bit of fish with delicate, beautiful artichokes, earthy Italian-flavoured beans and the tangy, spring tough of the wild garlic and sorrel.

Serves 2
For the monkfish:
2 pieces of monkish fillet, approx. 200g each. Skin and sinew removed.
For the artichokes:
2 large globe artichokes 
1 lemon 
1 garlic clove 
1 glass of white wine 
1 bay leaf
For the cannellini beans:
400g cooked cannellini beans, drained 
4 slices of speck, finely chopped 
1 garlic clove, grated 
2 sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped 
1 tsp dried oregano 
1 lemon, zest only 
A pinch of dried chilli flakes 
200ml chicken stock
For the wild garlic and sorrel oil:
A handful of wild garlic leaves 
A few sorrel leaves 
200ml extra virgin olive oil 
1 lemon, juice only
For the crispy speck:
2 slices of speck
To finish:
A few wild garlic and sorrel leaves

Make the wild garlic and sorrel oil in advance. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, and have a bowl of very cold (ideally iced) water ready. Blanche the wild garlic and sorrel leaves for 30 seconds, then immediately transfer to the cold water. When cool, drain and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Put the leaves into a small food processor with the lemon juice and some seasoning. Turn on the motor and slowly trickle in the olive oil until the herbs are finely chopped and everything is well combined. Pour into a bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight. 

Prepare the artichokes by pulling off the harder outer leaves until only the lighter, tender ones remain. Trim the bulb halfway down the leaves and use a melon-baller to scoop out the choke. Peel and trim the stalks. Slice lengthways into quarters. Fill a small saucepan with water, squeeze in the lemon and add with the garlic, wine and bay leaf. Put the trimmed artichokes straight into this liquid to stop them from discolouring. Bring everything to the boil, then simmer gently for 20 minutes, or until the artichokes are tender. Remove the artichokes from the liquid and allow to cool.
Pour a little oil into a deep frying pan and set to a medium heat. Add the speck, garlic, oregano, chilli, rosemary and lemon zest and cook for a few minutes until softened and fragrant. Tip in the beans and chicken stock, reduce the heat and cook gently for 15-20 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 180⁰C.
Lay the 2 slices of speck onto a lined baking tray. Season with salt and pepper and brush with a little oil. When the oven is hot, bake for about 10 minutes, or until crisp and golden. Break into large shards and set aside.
Put a heavy frying pan or griddle onto a high heat. Season the monkfish fillets and cooked artichoke quarters on all sides and rub with olive oil. When the pan is hot, cook the fish for 2-3 minutes on each side, and depending on thickness about 8-10 minutes in total. Add the artichokes to the pan halfway through, allowing a couple of minutes each side until lightly charred. Once cooked, leave the monkfish to rest for a couple of minutes, then slice into thick pieces. 

To plate up, spoon a generous amount of the beans onto each plate. Position the slices of monkfish to one side of the beans and arrange the green leaves, charred artichokes and crispy speck pieces around the plate. Finish with a spoonful of the wild garlic and sorrel oil and a good crack of black pepper.

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