Monkfish with Pancetta, Fennel & Saffron

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Here's a recipe I've reverse engineered after having eaten it at the Jolly Sportsman last month.


  • 2 monkfish fillets
  • 8 slices pancetta
  • 2 medium potatoes
  • ¼ savoy cabbage
  • ½ bulb fennel
  • ½ tsp ground saffron
  • 30g butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 100 mL milk
  • 100 mL chicken or vegetable stock (optional)

If monkfish is not available, any other white fish will make a reasonable substitute. Haddock works well. What is important is that the fillet must be long and thin, with a cross-sectional area of about a square inch (say, 2 cm by 3 cm), and should be boneless.


Clean the fennel and slice very finely. Heat about a quarter of the butter and a tablespoon of the oil in a small frying pan, and sauté the fennel until it starts to brown. Stir in the saffron, then add the stock, or a little salted water. While the other parts of the meal are cooking, keep an eye on the fennel to make sure it stays moist. As the fennel softens this mixture should become almost pureé-like in texture.

Peel and chop the potatoes and boil in salted water for 15 minutes.

Chop the cabbage roughly. Put a pot of salted water on to boil. We will cook the cabbage very quickly at the end of the recipe.

Meanwhile, wrap the pancetta slices around the outside of each fish fillet — four slices should be enough for each fillet. In a large frying pan, heat half of the butter and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. When very hot, lay the wrapped fish fillets into the pan. Cook over a moderate to high heat for about 5 minutes, turn over and fry on the other side for another five minutes.

As the fish nears completion, put the cabbage into the boiling water, drain the potatoes and mash them until smooth, melting in the remaining butter and adding the milk. If the mashed potatoes are too runny, return them to the heat to evaporate out some of the liquid.

Drain the cabbage.

Take two large plates and on each place the cabbage, fennel mixture and mashed potato in three separate piles.

Remove the fish from the frying pan and chop each fillet in half cross-ways. (You should now be able to see that the fish is cooked through!) Arrange the half fillets on top of the fennel mixture and serve immediately.