Autumn Flavours: Mitch Tonks’ monkfish roasted with 50 cloves of garlic, olives and basil

When planning a Sunday lunch, fish doesn’t often get a look in amongst all the meat choices, largely I think through tradition but also because we aren’t familiar with serving a whole fish on the table.

It is a wonderful experience, a real sense of occasion and this dish is perfect for four or more people sharing lunch.

Don’t be put off by the 50 cloves of garlic, during the cooking the garlic loses its raw pungency and become incredibly sweet, part of the enjoyment of this dish is the squeezing out of the garlic cloves onto your plate.

It makes a wonderful combination with the monkfish and the warm oil takes on all the flavours of the dish and is lovely spooned over creamy mashed potatoes or mashed squash.

Serves 4


1 fennel bulb, very finely sliced
Small glass dry white wine
50 cloves of garlic, skin on
250 ml / 8 fl oz extra virgin olive oil
1 monkfish tail weighing about 1kg / 2.2 lb prepared as above
1 tsp fennel seeds finely ground
1 tbsp coriander seeds, lightly roasted and crushed
1 birds eye chilli
A handful of black olives
6 tomatoes, cut in half
A handful of basil, finely chopped
Salt and pepper

To make:

Pre heat the oven to 220c.

Take a roasting dish and spread out the fennel on the bottom, add the wine, olive oil and garlic cloves then sprinkle in the ground fennel and coriander, then crumble in the chilli and add the olives. Squeeze some juice from the tomatoes into the dish then add them.

Season the fish with salt and pepper and rub in a little ground fennel seed all over it then sit it in the oil on top of the vegetables. Roast for 30/35 minutes, remove from the oven and allow to rest for 4 or 5 minutes, there should be a white milky juice flowing from the fish as it rests, this is the protein in the fish naturally leaking out during cooking.

Stir in the basil, and after the oil has cooled slightly season to taste before serving whole at the table surrounded by the vegetables and with plenty of oil, olives, tomatoes and basil spooned over the top, a little lemon juice added to the oil sauce can be a good idea. You will find the fish comes easily away from the bone as everyone gets stuck in, it can be quite and occasion. I like to serve it with mashed potatoes and spinach or braised fennel.

Mitch Tonks is an award-winning food writer, restaurateur and fishmonger who runs RockFish Grill & Seafood Market in Bristol and The Seahorse and RockFish Seafood and Chips in Dartmouth.

Recipe taken from The Aga Seafood Cookbook by Mitch Tonks published by Absolute Press

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