Monkfish, Garlic and Rosemary in Tomato Sauce

monkpMonkfish is one of my favourite fish species. Its cheeks and “tail” lend, both firmly fleshed, themselves to various cooking methods. I usually prepare both with coconut milk, either with green curry or with Indian spices. If I hadn’t stumbled upon this dish in The Big Red Book of Tomatoes by Lindsey Bareham, I would have never thought of cooking monkfish in tomato sauce and even less of seasoning it with rosemary (for me the lamb herb par excellence). The extravagant amount of garlic cloves was however what drew me most to this recipe. As a garlic addict, I found this new way to enjoy it fascinating, but, most of all, it proved excellent with monkfish, so I will certainly cook this dish very often.

I have slightly changed the recipe, mainly roughly reducing the amounts to a dish for two. I have also added a chopped garlic clove because the whole cloves didn’t made the sauce garlicky enough for me and one red sliced chilli pepper to make it hot. Check the original recipe and other inspiring tomato-based dishes from all around the world inย The Big Red Book of Tomatoes by Lindsey Bareham. Apart from being inspiring and containing lots of tempting recipes, this is one of the most beautiful cookery books I own, even though it doesn’t contain a single photograph. The cover is amazing and the layout both practical and pleasing to the eye. I strongly advise it to all the tomato fans.


You can use monkfish cheeks here instead of the tail.

The author advises new fresh garlic to reduce the strength of its flavour; I have used rather head of garlic and it was not too strong for my taste (I am a big garlic fan though…).

This dish can be reheated (covered), though the monkfish will become slightly drier. If you do intent to reheat it, remove the rosemary stalk before putting the dish into the fridge; otherwise the rosemary scent will become too overwhelming.

Preparation: about 30 minutes

Ingredients (serves two):

400 g (about 14 oz) of monkfish tail fillets cut into two-three bite portions (cheeks can also be used here of course)

12 garlic cloves, peeled

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 stalk of fresh rosemary (or dried rosemary, but I cannot advise amounts here)

(1-2 fresh chilli peppers, sliced or chopped; I have used one big chilli)

1 glass of white dry wine (100 ml)

salt, pepper

350 ml/about 12 fl oz tomato passata/crushed fresh or canned tomatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil

Blanch the garlic cloves in boiling water (I boiled them for two minutes).

Drain and dry them.

Wash and dry the monkfish pieces.

Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the garlic cloves and the monkfish pieces until golden.

Pour the wine, give everything a stir and wait until the wine evaporates.

Add the remaining ingredients, season with salt and pepper and let the dish simmer until the monkfish is soft. It will take 10 – 15 minutes or more. Taste the monkfish often; it dries quite quickly.

Serve with crusty white bread.

28 Replies to “Monkfish, Garlic and Rosemary in Tomato Sauce”

  1. The dish is beautiful considering what an ugly fish that it’s made with. I’ve never tasted it myself but I’ve read that it tastes like lobster. Perhaps because of its meatiness compared to other fish. I’m not much of a garlic fan so I’d probably just use a pinch or two of dried garlic powder.

    1. Thank you, A_Boleyn. Actually one doesn’t see often the whole monkfish here because given the size of its head, it would take probably twice as much space when transported or stocked at the fishmonger’s. Some fishmongers put one whole monkfish, but I think it’s only for “decoration”. I have never been offered a whole fish. It’s always either the whole tail or the fillets or the cheeks.
      The taste is far from the lobster… (You have made me dream!), but the fish is delicious and I have heard its texture is compared to the lobster because it’s quite “meaty” as you say. I think fresh monkfish cheeks are much better than for example frozen scallops which are usually more expensive.

  2. Wow, Sissi! I admire your beautiful shot of the dish. It is really gorgeous! Simple composition that when you get it right, it looks like a million bucks shot. You really made the monkfish species happy by beautifully presenting them. Have a good week, Sissi! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Hi Ray, thank you so much for the compliment. I’m really flattered! I didn’t expect anyone to find it appetising. Have a nice week too!

  3. Monkfish!? Just wondering what you (I mean the Swiss people) do with monkfish liver. Do you eat only cheeks and tail? As you may know, the Japanese eat almost all parts of monkfish, and monkifish liver is called foie gras of the sea.

    1. Hi Hiroyuki, I didn’t know in Japan you liked monkfish liver. I have no idea what the Swiss do with monkfish liver (as you know I’m not Swiss ๐Ÿ˜‰ so maybe I have a limited knowledge to some friends… though most of them live here but are not Swiss: I live in a very international city). Here I have never seen the raw monkfish liver, but cheeks are very often sold (I like cheeks a lot), but in France I have seen canned monkfish liver (never tasted it! I must do it!); I have also heard comparison to foie gras in France ๐Ÿ™‚ . The raw one (in France) is very appreciated but only by gourmets, not the majority. The French also eat cod’s liver I think (but once more it’s a gourmet’s treat).
      I must taste monkfish liver , at least canned… Thank you for reminding me.

  4. Fish soups in Greece are not as tasty and this is really weird considering the fact that fish was a very important part of the country’s diet and in abundance. Nevertheless, fish soups are very simple and plain and that’s why I do not prefer them. This one instead looks absolutely delicious and inviting. I would gladly have a bowl or two!

    1. Thank you for the compliment, Katerina. (Actually it’s not a soup; just fish simmered in tomato sauce, but it was really good!). I must pay attention to Greek fish soup recipes then. Thank you for the warning. (I’m so enthusiastic about Greek cuisine, I’d be tempted to try them certainly).

  5. Sissi, I’m so inspired by your creative dish with monkfish; that is simmered in the bright smooth and red tomato sauce. The rosemary certainly is a perfect addition. All I would need is a couple chunks of fresh crusty bread to mop up the delicious sauce and savour the delicious fish!

  6. Your sauce looks beautiful Sissi! Love the fresh looking sprigs of rosemary and the fish poking through the vibrant tomato chili base. My own view is that unless it is pulled right from the water (in which case all I’m looking for is a splash of lemon and sea salt), enjoying fish is all about the flavourings ๐Ÿ˜‰ — your sauce looks and sounds so tasty and easy to pull together. A winner.

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly. I totally agree. If a fish is not very fresh, it has to be spiced up.

  7. That is a very interesting name for a book. And a recipe book with no pictures? I didn’t realise that was allowed:)
    I think I have yet to try monkfish. Been hearing a lot about it – need to find. I heard that its caught in Sweden also so should be available.

    1. I have lots of books without photographs. If a book is good and inspiring, it doesn’t need attractive photographs. It makes one’s imagination work (though I know many cooks will not agree with me). Photographs are of course useful and pleasant to look at…
      Monkfish is delicious. Look also for monkfish cheeks. I buy them quite often (whenever they are at a special price… both cheeks and tail are quite expensive).

  8. Beautiful dish Sissi….I had monk fish in restaurant, but never cooked at home…the sauce sounds incredible…so tasty!
    Have a great weekend ๐Ÿ˜€

    1. Thank you so much, Juliana. Monkfish is particularly easy to cook (and of course delicious!). Have a lovely weekend too.

    1. Thank you so much, Minoru. Tomato is one of the most amazing gifts of nature, isn’t it?

  9. Sweet mother that IS an ugly-ass fish. Now I know what it was that saw in a store in England once. I’d always thought it was a dogfish or catfish or something (I remember reading the label but forgot), but it was definitely this. Head and everything. Reminds me a bit of the blobfish. I wonder if it gets like this because of pressure changes as it’s fished. That’s the reason the blobfish apparently looks so weird.

    As A_Boleyn said though, it looks like a beautiful dish, *especially* so, coming from such a fugly fish!

    1. Hi Charles, I must say that if it wasn’t for A_Boleyn’s comment I would never consider if this fish is ugly or not. No one sells a whole monkfish because half of its weight is often the head where only small cheeks can be used (at least I was not proposed a whole fish a single time and I must have bought it dozens of times in different places). It’s displayed sometimes whole only to attract curious customers or to make the fishmonger look more “real”. Actually, even though it’s an expensive fish per kilo, the fact that only the tail is sold (even if it’s sold whole, with the skin and the spinal bone), makes it quite affordable contrary to “cheap” mackerel where I have to throw away more than half of the fish after the fillets are prepared.
      Now that I think, I’d rather eat ugly creatures than cute ones ๐Ÿ˜‰
      Thank you for the compliment, but since only the fish tail is used here, I have no merit in the way the dish ended up:-) (which is not my recipe moreover!).

  10. What a gorgeous dish Sissi! Monkfish is not something one finds in these parts but I’ve heard of it. I have seen pictures of it and what an ugly fish. ๐Ÿ™‚ Obviously it tastes much better than it looks, but then the catfish is the same way – ugly fish, but taste GOOD! 12 cloves of garlic sounds right for just about any dish, especially a tomato sauce type dish. I would love to try this. It looks delicious!

    1. Thanks a lot, MJ. It was delicious indeed and I’m sure it would be great with catfish too (I haven’t had it for long years… but I always thought it was funny with its long “moustache” ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

  11. This post reminds me of the time I took my kids to Asian grocery store where there are fresh fish lying there on display… and there was monkfish! Both kids went wild with funny expression and excitement. They wouldn’t realize that fish become this delicious looking dish. LOL. It’s beautiful and delicious!

    1. Thanks a lot, Nami. I think the whole monkfish is put at fishmonger’s only to attract the clients’ attention because, as I told Charles, I have never seen it anywhere being sold with the head (and no one even asked me if I wanted it whole or not… and I bought it so many times… it’s quite popular and often sold both in France and Switzerland, both cheeks and tail). The head does look unusual though.

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