di rospo — monkfish Ancona-style
Italy and Topsham, Devon February 16, 2005 I’m still
basking in the warm glow of my recent trip to Le Marche. Something particularly
appealing about this still undiscovered region is that seems to be something
of a link between Northern Italy and the Mezzogiorno. An indication
of this is the prevalence of peperoncino in the local cuisine.
peperoncino and chillies of all types and varying degrees of
heat, much to the dismay, sometimes, of my family, who have almost given
up protesting when I overdo it. So the discrete note of peperoncino
that I enjoyed in the foods of Le Marche – utterly absent in Adriatic
seafood from, say, Venice — is most welcome and delicious.
Angelo’s mother, for example, prepared that exquisite dish of
codina di rospo — tiny, baby monkfish tails — stewed
in good Le Marche olive oil, wild fennel (a characteristic flavouring
of the region) and peperoncino. It was sensational, the wild
fennel and chilli combining well, the latter adding just the right note
of piquancy. It was a dish I had to try and recreate here at home.
fishmonger, is himself a fisherman. He told me that sometimes he does
get tiny monkfish, but they are not easy to sell. He catches larger
specimens of this formidable creature from the deep from time to time,
usually when he is out fishing for skate. The largest he ever landed
weighed a hefty 22 lbs, but most of that was the head, with its massive
gaping jaws, which is always discarded.
had a beautiful piece of monkfish, glistening and seafresh. He boned
and skinned it for me, and I kept the trimmings. This is how I prepared
it, Ancona-style. I hope Letitzia would approve. Angelo warned me not
to overdo it with peperoncino and I think I got it just about
right. ("It's quite hot, Daddy," said Bella, "but
not too hot, just right.")
di rospo - monkfish Ancona-style
1 bulb fennel
Pinch of piri piri chilies
1 clove garlic
1/2 fresh chili
Extra virgin olive oil (preferably from Le Marche)
Dry Italian white wine
1 dried peperoncino
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
and bone the monkfish or have your fishmonger do this. Save the trimmings
and bones to make a fish stock: to a saucepan add the bone and trimmings,
half a chopped bulb of fennel, pinch of piri piri chili, a glass of
dry white Italian wine. Top up with water to cover, leave to simmer
gently for half an hour, strain and reduce to about a wine glass.
the rest of the fennel into matchsticks. Finely chop the fresh chili.
Crumble or chop the peperoncino, to taste. Finely chop the
garlic. Heat about half a glass of olive oil in a frying pan and gently
stew the fennel, garlic, chili and peperoncino.
oven to 180 C. Cut the trimmed monkfish into even sized cubes. Raise
the heat in the frying pan with the oil-fennel-and-chili mix, and add
the pieces of monkfish. Turn on all sides to seal, then add the fish
stock. Place in pre-heated oven for 7-10 minutes or so, or until the
fish is just cooked through.
the fish onto deep plates then spoon over the cooking liquid.
Giuditta Politi's Loretello Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi.