JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Moro monkfish with ginger and saffron

This delicious smokily-spiced fish and potato dish would be just as good without the fish, in fact, next time, I think that's how I'll make it. And any white fish would do, rather than overpriced monkfish, as what you're after is a contrast between the white flesh and the smoky-dark sauce - both in taste and in colour.

The recipe comes from Moro East, Sam and Sam Clark's book about cooking inspired by their allotment at Manor Gardens in Hackney, East London, now, shockingly, bulldozed to make way for an Olympic footpath from carpark to stadium.

In case you're wondering how an allotment book comes up with a fish dish, I should tell you that the inspiration for Moro East came mainly from the cultural diversity of fellow allotment holders - their produce and, most importantly, their ways of cooking. Thus Moro East broadens out from the Clark's original books on the Moorish cookery of Spain.

Introducing this dish, S&S write: shut your eyes, taste, and be transported to Morocco. For me, this food evokes Sicily (the sweet note of the sultanas in a savoury dish) and Cornwall - the taste of saffron takes me right to the Penzance bakery every single time.

One of the best things about this recipe is that it's a two-step process: I made the sauce on Thursday while I was cooking supper. It was hardly any extra trouble, and made preparing dinner last night much quicker ... a huge help as I didn't get home until nearly 7 o'clock after a busy day.

Monkfish with sweet onions, ginger and saffron

for 3

Monkfish (or not)
olive oil
3 onions
2 cloves of garlic
120g sultanas
1 tsp ground ginger
a big pinch of saffron (about 30 strands)
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp cinnamon
400 ml water
400g diced waxy potatoes

Slice the onions thinly into rounds, and fry gently in a lot of olive oil (S&S say 6 tbsp). Stir frequently. When the onions are just golden, add finely chopped garlic and sultanas. Cook these for about 5 minutes to give the sultanas a chance to swell up in the oil. Add the spices, warm through, then add the water. Simmer for five minutes. At this point you can stop. Or not.

Heat the oven to 230C. Pour the warmed sauce into a large roasting tin. Arrange the potatoes on top in a single layer. Cover with foil and put in the oven. Once the sauce is simmering, the potatoes will take half an hour. You therefore need to time the addition of the fish depending on its size. Here is the Moro East guide to cooking times: a large (1kg) monkfish tail will also take 30 minutes or so, and should be added as soon as the potatoes are hot; 2 smaller tails will take about 20 minutes ... portion-sized fillets or steaks will take only 10-15 minutes.

Smear your fish with oil, and a little salt if you like. Lay the fish on the potatoes, re-cover, and cook for most of its timing. About five minutes before the end, turn the fish over and finish baking uncovered.

I served this with plain couscous. S&S say that you can sprinkle the dish with orange blossom water ... which makes me think that another time, it would look and taste good with a scattering of orange zest.


MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Sounds very good Joanna. Every once in a while I come across a recipe that you can stop half way through with and still have what seems very complete!

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

Ooooh, what a very tasty-sounding recipe! I haven't yet bought the new Moro book (I have the previous one), but this recipe makes me wonder if I should...

Ed Bruske said...

Joanna, I would love to see your seafood recipes compiled. They always offer big flavors from unexpected places. I love monkfish. However, I've stopped buying it because it is listed as "avoid" by the Monterey Bay Aquarium's "Seafood Watch" program. At least in the Atlantic off the U.S. coast, monkfish (a bottom feeder that used to be thrown overboard as trash) has been overfished. Also, the means of catching it usually involves trawling, which seriously damages the ocean floor. I wonder how your British stocks are doing.

Riana Lagarde said...

this sounds great, i have some monk fishheads (free from the fishlady) in the freezer and they have quite a bit of meat on them) that we eat all the time. they are caught near us (med waters, thus spain and morocco and sicily!)

Joanna said...

Thank you all for kind words.

Ed, I am overwhelmed and ashamed in equal measure. I didn't once stop to think about monkfish stocks ... I am looking into this thoroughly, and will get back to you. There's always an alternative, we haven't eaten cod here for years and years ... but you've just shown me how I'm on auto-pilot in the shop, unthinkingly trading on years-old information.