I’d popped into Waitrose for some Earl Grey tea … but that’s what supermarkets are like, even when you go in for one thing and grab just a basket rather than a trolley … you end up apologising at the six-items-only checkout and hope they don’t send you back to Go.
I’d had in mind a simple supper of home-made fresh tomato sauce (still a glut of tomatoes going on at home) with pasta. No way! Not when I spied the fillets of monkfish and remembered Paul Dring at Jamie Magazine in a recent email exchange telling me that one of his favourite recipes from Moro – The Cookbook (No.6 on my Top Ten list) – was the fish stew, Romesco de peix. I told myself I’d cook it at the weekend; monkfish was an expensive mid-week treat. But hey, I’ve been working hard and was having an afternoon off – it doesn’t take much persuasion in my mind to find an excuse for trying out a good recipe.
This was going to have to be an adaptation: I didn’t buy clams; I didn’t have fish stock and wasn’t about to make some but I did have some chicken stock (Real Chicken Stock Cubes) that was fairly light and so not too strong a flavour, but would add the necessary depth; I didn’t have smoked paprika but actually I don’t much like things with too strong a smoked taste – but I had some good sweet paprika bought in Spain; I didn’t have a red pepper but there was an orange one in the fridge; and ready-ground almonds were going to have to do rather than toasting and grinding some whole blanched almonds (even a Single Gourmet is allowed a break and to cut corners sometimes). I also approximately halved the amounts in the recipe to make just two portions rather than four.
So, into my nice big Jamie stir-fry pan (I told you before I use it for almost everything!) I put 3 tablespoons of olive oil and gently fried half a Spanish onion (sweeter and less strong than ordinary old English ones), roughly chopped, till soft. Then add 1 crushed garlic clove, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, 2 bay leaves and one thinly sliced orange/red/or yellow pepper (not green though; not sweet enough). Allow the pepper to soften (about 10 minutes) and then add 1 teaspoon sweet paprika (less if using smoked variety) and 1/2 tin of chopped tomatoes (i.e. 200g). Simmer for another 10 minutes then add 100 ml white wine and allow to bubble for a couple of minutes to release the alcohol before adding 100 ml of stock and a pinch of saffron that’s been soaked in a little boiling water for a few minutes. Then add 5 tablespoons of ground almonds. These will thicken the sauce and give it a delicious flavour and lovely texture. Check seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Now – at the last moment when you are ready to eat – put in about 250g monkfish fillet cut into bite-sized cubes. Put a lid on the pan and simmer gently for only about 5 minutes until the fish is cooked through. Scatter a little chopped parsley over the top and serve with new potatoes, tossed in butter with some fresh chopped mint and/or a green salad.
It was a stunningly good dish, definitely to be repeated and would be great for entertaining. You could cook the sauce earlier in the day, right up to the point of adding the fish, and keep in the fridge. Then at the last minute, heat through and then add the fish five minutes before you want to eat.