Friday, May 23, 2014

Monkfish Stew

A forced diet tends to put roadblocks front and foremost in the mind, what you can’t have rather than viewing the opportunities of experimentation forced by limitation. As such a negative view of a once loved activity slowly creeps and has the power to become all encompassing if not held at bay and the positives of the situation reflected upon. It certainly didn’t help that along with the prescribed low fat diet, I was told strictly no alcohol and that meals should be smaller and more frequent, breakfast, pshaw. Needs must though and once recuperated, mentally and physically, I tried to push the negative creeping thoughts of “what the hell can I eat, no butter, no fat, no dairy, no good stuff” and the sarcastic “thanks a lot pancreas”.

Breakfast has probably been the hardest adjustment to make, I usually skipped it, having a strong black coffee in its place, but now I have become quite the porridge making expert, thankfully I’ve never been a huge fan of the added milk/cream to my oats so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. I find the trick is soaking the night before, one part oats, three parts water, a good pinch of salt, dried sour cherries and figs, all placed in a bowl, covered and refrigerated overnight, ready to be cooked over a low heat until thick and lush.

Lunch wasn’t so much a problem, I miss the cheese I must admit, a crusty baguette just isn’t the same without a schmeer of butter, but I can still have tasty treats like pressed ox tongue on rye with super hot english mustard and a good sour pickle to finish it off with.

Dinner, well, I’m getting there, it’s hard not to add a dash of butter or a glug of olive oil, avoid dressings, no white wine to deglaze with. I started out quite somber, completely no fat added meals, and as you can imagine they weren't the most successful, you need a bit of fat to carry flavour, you can’t soften, caramelise, or sauté a humble onion without a slight dash of oil to keep it from sticking or fry with. Finally I got past the limitation of diet as a roadblock and an absolute, low fat isn’t no fat, and now am slowly starting to introduce a more normal diet, but it’s difficult because what I have tonight could make me sick tomorrow, but as I’ve heard and read, it’s about the only way to know if my body can handle certain things now, try it and if it doesn’t make you feel like shit then it’s probably OK.

1 Medium Fennel bulb, diced
1 Large Red onion, diced
200 g Chickpeas, cooked
1 Carrot, diced
A good handful of Parsley, finely chopped
Juice of a Lemon
1–2 tbsp of Harissa
200 g of Tomatoes, peeled and chopped (or purée/passata)
Monkfish fillet, cut into large chunks
Olive oil
200ml Stock (fish or chicken)

Place a pan over a medium heat and add the olive oil, add the onion and fennel, sauté until soft and translucent. Stir in the Harissa and cook until fragrant. Deglaze with the stock, add the carrot, tomatoes and half the parsley. Simmer for about 10–15 minutes, the carrots should be cooked and the liquid reduced a little. Add the chickpeas and capers, cook for a minute or two, taste and adjust the seasoning, add the lemon juice. Bring to a simmer and then place the monkfish pieces in the stew and cover. The fish will only take a couple of minutes to cook. When cooked, remove from the heat and adjust the seasoning, stir through the remaining parsley.

Serve in a bowl with some crusty bread.

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