Monday, 27 May 2013

No, it's not really scampi

Not that it has any impact on my weekly habits, but it’s still worth noting that Saturday was part of Love Your Local Market Fortnight.

And as the weekly shopping does not do itself – to market I went.

Not that that should be read as suggesting that it’s a chore. Even if the weather is absolutely hideous, a Saturday morning on Broadway Market gives me pleasure.

This week, I was contemplating some fish for the weekend, but was very much in a mode where what I wanted would depend on what was available.

It’s taken me time to get to such a stage: I still use lists, but they’re a little less detailed these days, and I’m less intimidated by the idea of changing my mind or finding a planned ingredient isn’t available.

But back to the actual shopping: unusually, Vicki had monkfish. Not a lot, but a couple of nice pieces, one of which was more than adequate for two of us.

A lovely, meaty fish that can take some serious cooking, I decided to buy a piece.

It was a piece about 500g in weight. Vicki skinned it already for me – much the fiddliest bit of dealing with this specimen.

In times not long past, it was so unpopular among the UK populace that any catch was either exported to where it was appreciated or turned into ‘scampi’ – the latter of which gives a nice little sideshow to the ongoing horsemeat scandal.

Was it labeled as monkfish 'scampi' or just 'scampi', with the knowledge that everyone knew that scampi was prawns or at least assumed it was?

However, that's in the past and it is no longer the case. From Vicki’s perspective, she says that, whenever she has any these days, it sells easily.

I looked up a couple of recipes for roasting it, finding that most worked on the basis of a 15-minute cook at around 200˚C.

But I wanted to do something slower, so I decided to play it my own way.

The oven was turned to 150˚C (fan).

The fish was boned – this is really easy with monkfish, which only has a simple spine that you can cut around with a sharp knife. No pin bones – easy.

Heat some olive oil in a heavy, lidded pan and soften some sliced garlic in, before adding the fish and gently colouring it.

Add plenty of good-quality paprika, several twists of black pepper, a tin of quality chopped tomato in its own juice,  squirt of tomato purée, some green olives stuffed with anchovy and a pinch of sugar.

Let it come to a bubble and then lid and pop in the oven for 40 minutes.

At this point, turn the fish and check for seasoning: mine needed salt, before I also added a good squirt of a Balsamico ‘glaze’ that I have in that is particularly thick and ideal for plate decoration. But in something like this it gives a bit of added ‘body’ as well as flavour.

Pop it back in the oven – lidded once more – and give it a further 40 minutes.

Serve the fish on pillows of plain or basmati rice, surrounded with the sauce.

So, great flavours, reminiscent of Spain, and fish perfectly cooked.

And it really doesn’t come much easier.

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