The sky is bluer, the grass is greener and the temperature is warmer (well, apart from the frost I had in the garden this morning), which means Spring is waking up from its winter slumber.
Time to look for more colourful dishes to brighten up these early season days.
Seasonality isn’t a problem with this simple easy dish which uses ingredients you can get all year round, but with its Spanish influences, it does cheer me up and makes me think of warmer Mediterranean climes.
It uses Monkfish, a fish so ugly it has a face only a mother could love, yet it tastes sublime and is one of the finest fish you can buy. It’s available all year round, although at its best quality in Spring and Summer.
Most fishmongers will sell only the tail as the humongous head takes up more than half the fish’s body. The tail has only one large central bone running down its length, which is easily removed to give two boneless fillets and most fishmongers will sell these.
Monkfish is the perfect fish for this stew, being sweet and firm, and not flaking away during cooking, like cod would do for example.
The other main ingredients, like tinned haricot beans, are store-cupboard essentials and could even be swapped for butter beans or cannellini beans.
You can buy a jar of roasted red peppers if you don’t fancy roasting your own.
The only other thing to mention is, if you’re using paprika, try to make sure you use smoked paprika. Hungarian and Spanish paprikas can both be smoked, although I prefer the Spanish kind, normally sold as Pimenton, which comes in three different levels of heat.
I used Pimenton Dolce, which is the mildest, but next time I will use Pimenton Picante, which will have a lot more bite to it.
The decision is yours.
INGREDIENTS serves 2-3
500g monkfish fillet, cut into equal size pieces
2 onions, sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1½ tsp smoked paprika
1 heaped tbsp tomato puree
400g can haricot beans, drained
1 large red pepper, roasted and thinly sliced
800ml fish stock (a good cube or powder is fine)
1 bay leaf
Handful of chopped fresh parsley
Season the monkfish pieces with salt and pepper and keep to one side.
Sauté the sliced onions in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil until they start to soften and colour (about 8 minutes).
Add the garlic, tomato puree and paprika, mix through the onions and cook for a further few minutes.
Add the beans, red pepper, bay leaf and stock. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes.
The stew should be starting to thicken a little, so now add the monkfish pieces and stir through well. Continue to simmer gently for about 5 minutes.
Season to taste and stir in the parsley.
Serve hot in bowls with sliced baguette to mop up the sauce.