Pengelly's, the finest day-caught fish and shellfish, in Looe & Liskeard, Cornwall
This dish is terribly simple to cook, yet tasty and sophisticated. Tweaked slightly it's also the perfect option to introduce children to the joys of fish and seafood... just stick cocktail sticks into each bite and kids will love it!
Monkfish tail, about 100g per serving.
7 strips of pancetta (Italian smoked bacon) per portion. (Thin cut smoked streaky bacon works as well.)
6 / 7 baby asparagus tips per person.
A handful of samphire per person.
A decent chunk of unsalted butter for frying.
Sea salt and fresh pepper for seasoning.
One good-sized lemon.
Prior to cooking, heat up a pot of slightly salted water for the vegetables. Wash the monkfish and dry each piece in kitchen roll. Cut the monkfish into bite-sized pieces, about an inch square. Finally season each piece with a little sea salt and a twist of pepper, before wrapping a single piece of pancetta around each one.
warm through a large frying pan on medium heat.
Place the asparagus into the boiling water for 5-6 minutes, or until just tender.
At the same time, gently place each monkfish bite onto the frying pan. It should start to fry in the fats from the smoky bacon. Watch these carefully, turning regularly so the pancetta becomes slightly crispy on each side.
When the asparagus is done, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and add the samphire to the same water. Keep the asparagus warm in a very cool oven, and cook the samphire for 2-3 minutes: it shouldn't take longer than this. Drain the samphire in preparation for plating up.
When the monkfish bites are cooked through, and the pancetta is nicely browned on all sides, add the butter to the pan along with a good squeeze of lemon juice, and a sprinkle of seasoning.
Plate up by laying 6 or 7 asparagus tips lengthwise in the centre of the plate. Onto this add 5 or 6 monkfish bites piled on top of the asparagus. Finally pile a handful of the samphire on top of the monkfish bites, and drizzle some of the butter lemon pan-juice on top of each dish. Serve immediately.
If asparagus isn't in season this dish will work with any other green vegetable. Try it with finely chopped runner beans, French beans or tenderstem broccoli. The same technique works with other whitefish, such as thick cod fillet or sea bass and, if you're on a budget, it works perfectly with hake for a tasty, inexpensive, treat.