Saturday, April 9, 2011

Bacon wrapped Monkfish on Pea Risotto with a Burnt Lemon Butter

One of the best starts to a sentence that, 'Bacon wrapped'.  There were a few catch phrases in the Masterchef house.  We would spend quite a bit of time in each others company during the show, often with not a lot to do, so there was a fair amount of banter going on and some things stuck more than others.

The boys came up with an 'if all else fails' catch cry:  'If in doubt wrap it in bacon and deep fry it.  Everything's better wrapped in Bacon.'  Very wise words those, except for vegetarians......and certain religions...and Bacon hater's....The world hasn't come to that though has it?  People who don't like Bacon.  I understand those who don't eat bacon due to principle but that aside surely everyone likes Bacon.  Not liking Bacon just seems weird.  It's like not liking Hugs, or wishing Sunday evening would go a bit quicker.

Fresh from the fish markets I had picked up some tasty Monkfish fillets.  I first encountered this fish in the Gastropubs of London, where it is commonplace to find it wrapped in bacon or prosciutto.  A mild tasting fish it is distinct because of its meaty flesh.  Often called the poor man's lobster, due to it's meaty texture and mild flavor, the Monkfish has to be up there as one of the ugliest fish around.  You certainly won't see this being served whole on a platter!  I'll spare the squeamish and not put a photo up but google it if you are intrigued!

After wrapping the Monkfish fillets in bacon I'm going to serve it on a lovely pea risotto and serve it with a burnt lemon butter, where we get melted butter to that proper, nutty, colored stage and then freshen it up with lemon juice and zest.  This dish is a real star.  The classic flavors of pea, bacon and lemon work with the fish so well.  If I did ever open my own Kiwi Gastropub this would definitely make it to the menu!


400g  monkfish tail fillets cut into 2 fillets with tapered ends.
eight strips of streaky smoked bacon
Few sprigs of Thyme

1 litre Chicken Stock
1/4 cup wine
200g Aborio Rice
1/2 onion choped finely
2 Tbsp Butter
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 cup Frozen Peas

30g Butter
Zest and Juice of 1 Lemon


 Lay out the Monkfish fillets on a board and sprinkle over the thyme leaves and season with salt and pepper.  Place one fillet on top of the other so each end has one thick and one thin end of the fillets.
Lay the bacon on a board with each piece slightly overlapping and then place the Monkfish slightly to one side as in the picture.
Wrap the Bacon around the fillets.  Wrap the rolled bacon and fillets tightly in cling film and then place in the fridge for about 30 minutes.  This will keep the bacon in shape when cooking.

Put the oven on Grill at about 200C.  Unwrap the cling film and then place onto a grill pan with the bacon joins facing down.  Grill for about 15-20 minutes turning every 5 minutes to get all parts of the bacon crispy.  The fish is cooked when it feels firm when pressed on top.

To make the pea risotto melt 1 Tbsp butter in a small saucepan.  Add the frozen peas and cook for a few minutes until defrosted.  Add chicken stock until the peas are just covered, about 1/4 a cup, and cook for a few more minutes.  Place the cooked peas and stock in a food processor and puree.  Put to one side.

Place the remaining stock in the saucepan and put onto a medium heat.  You want the stock to be simmering, but not boiling for when you add it to the risotto.

Melt the remaining butter and the Olive Oil in another saucepan.  Add the onion and fry for a few minutes.  Add the aborio rice and cook for a further two minutes stirring constantly.  Add the wine and let it cook off.

Now the next part of the process differs from cook to cook.  Some people make their risotto by putting all the stock in at once and then leaving the rice for 20 minutes.  I go the other way, adding a ladle at a time, stirring constantly until the stock has absorbed and then repeating that process until the rice is al dente.  I find this method produces a creamier risotto, even if it is more work.

Either way you go, just before all the stock has been absorbed, towards the end of cooking, add the pureed peas and stir thoroughly.  Season the rice to taste.

Lemon butter.  Notice the color of the butter.  A light shade of brown
To make the burnt lemon butter place the butter in a frying pan and melt.  When melted add the lemon zest.  Cook the butter gently until it starts to turn light brown and produces a nutty aroma.  Be careful as you don't want to actually burn the butter.  When ready add the lemon juice.

To serve spoon the risotto into the middle of a plate.  Slice the monkfish into about six pieces and place on top of the risotto.  Drizzle the lemon butter around the risotto.

Meaty fish, salty bacon, creamy sweet pea risotto and sharp citrusy butter.  Heaven!

Enjoy with your favorite white wine.

Have you ever cooked with Monkfish?  What are some of your favorite things to wrap in bacon?


  1. Lady Gaga springs to mind? Which is never a good thing really... Quick tip if you are lactose intolerant - sesame oil works great as a substitute for butter because of its low smoke point as well as having a distinctive flavour.

  2. Sorry Anthony, but monkfish has a ranking of E (worst choice) according to Forest & Birds "Best Fish Guide" Of special concern is the habitat destruction caused by bottom trawling, and by-catch of non-target species.

    However I do love the idea of bacon wrapped fish, and will try this recipe using seine caught kahawai or john dory.

  3. Eeeekkkk. Ruby that is most alarming. Thanks for pointing that out. I've only recently turned to frequently eaten fish so will give that list a good look. Might stick to crispy skinned snapper then!

  4. Made this last night for dinner, using blue cod (ranked D, concerns) to much acclaim from the family. However rather than grilling it, I baked it in the oven, and 'cause I didn't check the recipe before shopping, had to substitute (Freedom Farms) shoulder bacon for streaky. It was still delicious.

    I found a variation of bacon wrapped fish on the 'net that suggested using a paste of sundried tomatoes spread over the bacon; might have to try that next time!

    Just a minor suggestion: could you please give an indication of how many your recipes serves? We are a family of three and had loads of the risotto left over while the quantity bacon & fish was just right.

  5. Hey Ruby. Sundried tomato paste would work great I reckon. Good idea. Will make sure I put servings up in future. With the leftover risotto you could make some aracini (deep fried risotto balls). I had sone leftover which I served with a poached egg for breakfast.

  6. There are bacon haters? Next you'll be telling me there are kitten haters! I love bacon. Unfortunately I can't eat it (I'm sort-of vegan, for medical reasons, not as a lifestyle choice), but occasionally I treat myself and when I do: Bloody Hell It's Good!

  7. Gidday Anthony, cousin Deane here - very long time between drinks! Watched you on TV and all my workmates kept talking about you - I'm in Auckland too so any time you want to cook me a curry give me a call.