monkfish with lemon and pepper

i realised recently that we’ve not been eating very much fish. this isn’t a bad thing in itself given how overfished our oceans and the pressures on some of the species that are commonly seen in fishmongers but perhaps shouldn’t be. however, with the warmer weather I've been thinking about lighter dishes and fish has obviously been on my mind.

monkfish was one of the first things that caught my eye and this Delia Smith recipe which gives it a lemon and pepper crust and accompanying lemon and anchovy dressing was a great way to showcase its lovely flavour (it reminds me of lobster). the dressing also worked really well with the asparagus and the leeks, which were cooked in butter until soft and then a bit of cream added created a nice contrast to the lighter fresh flavours of the rest of the dish.

one tip for this dish - monkfish can release quitelot of liquid when it cooks which, if you want if you want a slighty crispy crust is not ideal so, an hour before cooking, sprinkle the fish with a little salt, which will draw out the juices. just pat it dry before cooking.

delia’s monkfish with a lemon pepper crust and a warm lemon anchovy vinaigrette (serves 4)

700g monkfish, weighed off the bone and trimmed

grated zest and juice 1 lemon

2 level tablespoons black peppercorns

2 rounded tablespoons flour

1 level teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons of olive oil

for the lemon anchovy vinaigrette: 

grated zest of 1 large lemon

3 tablespoons lemon juice

3 anchovy fillets, drained and finely chopped

75 ml extra virgin olive oil

1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped

wipe the monkfish with damp kitchen paper and cut it into rounds ¾ inch (2 cm) thick, then lay it in a dish. sprinkle with lemon juice and leave it for 10 minutes, or longer if that suits you better.

meanwhile, crush the peppercorns fairly coarsely with a pestle and mortar and add the flour, salt and lemon zest to them. mix well and spread the mixture out on to a plate. now dry the pieces of fish well with kitchen paper and coat them with the lemon pepper mixture.

then, in a good solid frying pan, heat the oil until it's very hot and fry the fish in 2 batches, giving them 2-3 minutes on each side. keep the first batch warm.

meanwhile, make the vinaigrette by combining the oil, lemon zest and juice – preferably in a screw-top jar so you can give it a good shake – and add the chopped anchovies.

when the second batch of fish is ready, transfer it to join the rest, then add the shallot to the pan, adding a little more oil if necessary, and fry briefly for about 30 seconds. then pour in the dressing, let it bubble and reduce down slightly, whisking briefly with a balloon whisk.

serve the fish on warm plates with the sauce poured over and, if you like, lemon slices as a garnish.