This summer has been all about the barbecue. I’ve been lucky enough to spend time at home in France as well as in London over the past few months, and it has been unusually hot in both countries. Many of my favourite summer memories involve hot sun in the daytime, then there’s nothing better than letting the evening roll by with some cold beers and the hot grill going on until it gets dark (and beyond!)
As my birthday happened to be in July, I wanted to try something a little special on the big day (well I’m not sure 32 is a particularly big birthday day, but anyway…) and ended up choosing to cook monkfish.
Now monkfish is a weird animal. It has one big bone down the length of its back, but no others within the flesh (like cod does, for example). This means once you remove it (you can ask your fishmonger or someone in the supermarket to do that if you don’t fancy it) you don’t need to go through picking out bones or risk getting them stuck in your teeth.
The other big plus is that the lack of bones makes the flesh stronger, so it can be cut into large, almost ‘meaty’ chunks – perfect for kebabs on the barbecue.
Due to there being an excellent offer on Bayonne ham at the supermarket that day (it is really amazing / sad how often my recipes are influenced by special offers) I used it to wrap the monkfish chunks before grilling – and I used some very simple ingredients for a ‘salmoriglio’ marinade (it sounds fancy, but it’s just a basic Italian condiment which couldn’t be easier to make).
You could actually use any sort of cured meat for the wrapping – pancetta, parma ham, prosciutto, Black Forest ham…or even the ever-dependable bacon. You may get slightly different tastes, but then that’s what makes it fun!
There are loads of ways you could change this to suit your own tastes and needs. Pescetarians could get rid of the ham altogether, or if you’re feeling ultra adventurous (or rich) you could swap the monkfish for lobster.
Soft, juicy monkfish wrapped in salty and crisp Bayonne ham kebabs. Perfect for a sunny summer's evening.
- Monkfish - 800g (fillet, cut into 40mm cubes)
- Bayonne ham - 200g (or one strip for each chunk of monkfish)
- Sage leaves - 3 leaves per kebab skewer
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- Lemon juice - 5 tbsp
- Olive oil - 8 tbsp
- Garlic - 2 cloves (crushed or chopped very small)
- Oregano - 1 tbsp (dried) or 2 tbsp (freshly chopped)
- Black pepper - 1 tsp
- First you have to prepare the monkfish. You want to aim for evenly sized chunks, between 30-40mm cubes. As with nearly everything in my recipes, I like to attempt to keep each bit the same size so that they all cook evenly
- Now we need to make the marinade. Put oregano, garlic and black pepper in a pestle and mortar or bowl, and crush them together. Add the lemon juice, then the olive oil and stir with a whisk for a minute to mix it all together
- Put your monkfish into a dish and pour half of the marinade over it, making sure you coat all of the pieces as much as you can. We keep the other half for brushing on to the kebabs while they're cooking, as well as to add to the finished dish on the table
- Leave your monkfish and marinade combo for an hour in the fridge
- Assembly is pretty simple. On a kebab skewer you put one sage leaf, then you wrap one cube of marinated monkfish with one slice of your ham and stick that on the skewer, then add another sage leaf, add another ham-wrapped monkfish cube, then a final sage leaf. WHen you've made them, put them back into the marinade bowl until your BBQ is ready
- Your barbecue wants to be nice and hot, after the coals have stopped smoking and glowing red. You need to cook the kebabs for around 10 minutes, and turn them often to make sure they don't get too hot and burn. If it seems like they are getting too hot then take them off and wait for a the thing to cool down before putting them back on!
- One problem I often have with kebabs is that the individual sections can 'spin' on the skewer when you're turning them, so I use the little trick of putting them inside a 'grill basket' (see the photos above). This means I can easily move all of the kebabs at the same time, and turning them is extremely easy, with no spinnage
- Serve with the remaining marinade drizzled over the top of them, and some crusty French bread and butter (to wipe up the juice)