Monkfish ‘n’ Chips

Monkfish

This is my take on Fish ‘n’ Chips, less messy, fast, easy, tasty, healthy. Monkfish, oven roasted wedges, crispy pancetta and cream of garden peas… Let’s go:

You’ll Need:

  • 1 tail of Monkfish, skinned by your fishmonger, they won’t mind and their knives are sharp
  • A good handful of Buckwheat flour, white flour will do too!
  • Dried dill, or even mixed herbs.
  • Salt and Black pepper
  • Fully cured and sliced pancetta (100g – 150g)
  • A good hanful of garden peas
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 large potato sliced in wedges per person (or more!)

How to:

First, cut the Monkfish into bite size nuggets, not too big, not to small, put them into a plastic food bag, with the flour, the dried herbs and the black pepper. Shake the lot until well coated. Pre-heat the oven at 200c and on a tray, lay the thin pancetta strips side by side. Bake for 5 minutes until crisp then lift with a spatula onto kithen towel.

Cured Pancetta

For the pea purée, bring the peas to a boil in salted water, just for 5 minutes with a clove of garlic; sieve and cool straight away, blend them with olive oil and lemon juice (2/3 for 1/3). Put them through a sieve and keep pushing them through with a spatula.

For the potatoes, cut them into wedges, rub them with olive oil and sea salt and bake for 20 minutes (until golden).

For the fish, give the bag another shake, take an olive oiled pan and when hot, place the nuggets and cook for a few minutes on each side. Pinch of salt all over, crumble the pancetta over the fish, with a wee drizzle of lemon juice to your liking… Enjoy!

Hungry Breton Monkfish and Chips

Fish Tale

DSC04382
Mullaghmore – Sligo

September 1991 After two months spent on the side of a mountain in Glenveagh National Park, I decided to enjoy a couple of weeks off, around Donegal town before heading back to Brittany; many long walks around Lough Eske , its abandoned castle, native oaks and mountain ashes. We didn’t drive. One of my friends suggested to hitchhike to Killybegs, Fishing Harbour few miles west of the town. I like fishing harbours, for some strange reason, the smell of marine gasoil mixed with the smell of rotting fish has a certain appeal. Or is it the screaming swarms of cheeky Herring Gulls? Lorient, St-Guénolé, Galway or Howth, no matter how big or small they might be, the atmosphere surrounding them is always the same; dressed with rich colours, fumes, sadness and excitement, noise… Life, purring Diesel engines… Superstition… What’s not to like really?

Choice 6
Herring Gulls
Choice 1
Killybegs Harbour

 

Have you ever tried Fish’n’Chips?” , asked my Orleans flat mate, while my native Irish friend rolled her eyes, as if saying: “Jayzus… Not again”. He was, let’s put it mildly, very enthusiastic by nature. We climbed the small hill overlooking the Harbour, sat at a corner table of this local chipper, just like teenagers do (yes we were still – just about – in that age bracket) and gazed at our laminated and slightly greasy menu; ketchup, mayo, salt and vinegar at the ready. Vinegar? On chips? Seriously?

Killybegs Fish

Truth be told, I had tried Fish and Chips; the previous September to be precise. The curator of Cap Sizun’s bird sanctuary and myself, after 6 months spent on the western peninsula cliffs counting kittiwakes, had just closed the reserve for the year. My mentor had to deliver fragile plaster birds of his creation to the yet to open maritime museum of Brest… Oceaonopolis. I was then treated to lunch in the Commercial Harbour. The decor was set, the name of the restaurant? “People Of The Sea”. Overwhelming with truth. We both went for the “Poisson-Frites”, fish of the day with chips. That was the day, the first time… My thoughts? The same any other Breton lad of my age would’ve had: “Fish with chips? What a weird combination!” Boy was I wrong! It somehow made our traditional rice and boiled potatoes abruptly redundant.

Hungry Breton Monkfish and Chips

I visited Donegal again this week, walked on the foot prints of cherished memories, one recalling the other, every time. This time I wanted to push a bit further west, what hitchhiking v time never allowed me to do before; I wanted to see the sun setting on Sliabh Liag’s mountain cliffs and its wild Atlantic coast. On the way back to Donegal Town, I stopped for a few minutes in Killybegs, I took it all in, the bells, the smells, the colours and the diesel engines purrs. They say the sea makes people hungry… Well it is true and I already knew what I would pick from the menu.

Choice 2

Sliabh Liag Sunset

Killybegs harbour

Keep Well and Eat Happy

Slán Tamall

Franck

Last Drool before School

Blackberries

I was sitting at my desk at home yesterday, trying to send a few emails, get some inspiration by playing music while staring through the sash window at the swaying Crocosmia. My attention got caught when I noticed a little blue box, containing some neatly sharpened coloured pencils my nieces and nephews enjoy drawing with. As I was bored, I stuck my nose in it, expecting a flash back memory that didn’t disappoint; back to school and my pencil case, the last week of bliss before being sent to the pillory. As a form of acceptance, the last few days of freedom were quite pleasant, mostly foraging blackberries, with our neighbours and friends. The pain of lacerated limbs was soon to be healed and forgotten by my mother’s legendary “slurpy special” , straight from the pot, soon to be devoured by a small army of stained faces; the last meal for the condemned scallywags we were. As I was trying to reconnect with these delicious berries, nature sometimes gives so generously, I imagined them as a savoury ingredient, definitely with fresh goat’s cheese, a great companion to a pork filet roast … But I had another plan this time!

Pencil case

A friend of mine, organic grower from another local Meath townland gave me some fresh raspberries and apples; mine are still a bit green. What I have though, is a field at the back of the house full of blackberries and my first crop of Aronia berries, I planted last year, a taste between a blackcurrant and a blueberry if you wish with a lovely zing. Not as tart as sloe berries, we used to eat as a dare and it felt like your whole mouth was shrinking from the inside!

Mixed berries and apples

When we were good, or rather when she felt like it, my mother used to make this lovely apple cake, moist and delicious; she used to let it cool on the window seal of the kitchen of the old school we used to live in… Well, above the school. Since she was a teacher that was handy! I realised that the recipe leaves the door open to a lot more things than apples. All the fruits of my local foraging were going to go in. The recipe includes 200g of flour, I did twist things a little and put 150g of organic white and 50g of organic buckwheat flour… For extra nuttiness…

Cake and Tea

This recipe is a great little number. Its simple frame will allow you to have a bit of fun. Berries, Apples and also quince paste, which makes it an amazing surprise with a good Irish Blue cheese! I have posted the recipe in the “recipe” area of the blog (dah…), my Mum would be pleased to share this one with everybody, the same way my “compadres” broke bread and shared her blackberry jam by the side of the road… Before heading back to the classroom benches!

 

 

Bohemian Rhapsody

Choosing a bohemian life, I must say, didn’t come without its challenges. Like La Fontaine’s Fables, full of wit, wisdom, “I told you so” and other Jiminy Cricket malarkey, the moral of one of his stories started to sink in. Shortly after finishing the academic machine, I had decided to dedicate my recently free life to pure troubadourism, shared between traditional music one day to rock’n’roll the other. My friend, somewhat wiser, entered bravely the hard working world of restaurants kitchens to become a “Master Crepier” which is basically the black belt of pan cake making in Brittany… Seriously.
The story depicted in Mr De La Fontaine’s bestiary was the one of an Ant and a Cigale (or cicada, cricket like), that incredible insect that colours the musical landscape of Provence and Southern regions of France. The tale depicts the life of a hard working ant and a bohemian “Cigale”. One is prepared for the winter, making good provisions of the summer’s generosity, the other spent it singing and gallivanting… With a monthly income of £200 then, I had to be clever when it came to feed myself; in case you haven’t come to the punch line yet, I was the Cigale in that twisted yarn…

Selection 2

As the summer was coming to an end, I hitch hiked the 700kms to visit my friend who had found his first gig in Ardèche, the southern middle part of France. The place was picturesque, very pretty and quaint, so far away from our Atlantic shores, too far away from the sea for my liking. Also, there seemed to be more “ambiance” in the evening rather than craíc, too much Joie de vivre for little Breton me… The food was good though, really good!

Ardeche Town

After my friend had finished his last shift in the geographical anachronism that, to me, was his Cêperie, we headed to the local café to speak about entomology or rather listen to another “Talk of Shame” lecture. Whatever! The local rosé, even if reluctantly given to us despite giving proof of our age and our “professional Breton” I.D, was beautiful and your man, the owner, was right. It was a bit stronger than it seemed (damn you Gamay!). Hunger set in, in one of its sneakiest ways, the “post drinking” munchies. We climbed the huge wooden staircase of this 1920 apartment that my childhood comrade had rented for a pittance. He opened the kitchen press, I stared for a while in the fridge, like a hypnotised rabbit at the night’s traffic lights. Not only Ardèche had great rosé wines, they also produced some savage goat’s cheese and wonderful cured meats. We gathered our loot on the table and started cooking…

Lentils Chorizo Goat's Cheese

How to make a feast with just four ingredients was the secret of our frugal youth, the essence of a good hearty meal that the French have mastered, through the rainbow variety of each of its regions terroir. My friend grabbed an old pan; I chopped the onion, threw in some Puy lentils, locally produced chorizo-like dried sausage and let the lot sweat for a bit before topping it up with water…

Cooking the lentils and chorizo

Before serving, we crumbled some of the amazing Picodon’s goat’s cheese; I remember its taste to be so strong! Last Monday I recreated this feast (like I often do), with Peter Whelan’s chorizo from Slane and Breton compatriot Anna Lesveque Tiskell goat’s cheese from Co. Waterford. I was thinking about all the students making their way back to universities and colleges next month, how tricky it can sometimes be to eat on a small budget and keep cooking good wholesome food. This is a perfect example of an easy, satisfying and good value meal… Believe me; Hungry Breton knows what it’s like to be a starving bohemian “cigale” or a hard working ant. But the moral of the story I guess is, may you be living a life of leisure or being a sensible workaholic, we all have to eat sometimes!

Chorizo Lentils and Triskell