Traditionally made with lobster, this excellent fish recipe adapts very well to monkfish, which has a firm enough flesh to marry with the strong flavours of the sauce. I’ve been wedded to a particular version by Jane Grigson since my early 20s and have struggled to find anything to match it online. Granny has come to the rescue, with her copy of Grigson’s original book Fish Cookery, published in 1975.
1.2 kg monkfish tail, cleaned
seasoned flour (plain flour seasoned with salt, pepper and nutmeg)
100ml olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
3 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
400ml dry white wine
350-400g large ripe tomatoes, peeled, cored and chopped
bouquet garni (use a sachet or tie your own bundle of herbs, including a bay leaf)
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp sugar
salt, pepper, cayenne pepper
chopped parsley and tarragon to garnish
Cut the fish into pieces (approx 2.5cm cubed) and turn in seasoned flour. Meanwhile fry the shallot, onion and garlic in the oil until they begin to colour. Add the fish; when its surfaces are all opaque, warm half of the brandy, set it alight and pour it into the pan, stirring the contents about in the flames. Once these die down, remove the fish to a warm plate (scraping off the excess onion mixture if you can).
Pour the wine into the pan, add tomatoes, bouquet garni, tomato puree, sugar and seasonings. Boil hard to reduce to a well-flavoured sauce – it must not be watery. Allow 20-30 minutes for this. Return the fish to the sauce and simmer gently until cooked, about 10 minutes, adding the rest of the brandy at the same time. Sprinkle generously with chopped parsley and tarragon before serving.