River Exe Café Monkfish with Crispy Duck, Spiced Lentils and Curry Velouté

Once dubbed ‘poor man’s lobster’, monkfish may not be the most attractive fish, but its fine, meaty texture and sweet flavour makes for an indulgent dish. As with lobster, monkfish goes perfectly with meat and shouldn’t be overlooked as a contender for a luxurious surf and turf.

Chris Dayes, Head Chef of Devon’s floating River Exe Café, pairs monkfish with crispy skinned confit duck leg and spiced lentils. At the restaurant, Dayes’ signature dish draws inspiration from his days cooking across the Caribbean, and is accompanied with aromatic garnishes including a parsnip puree and tangy pineapple salsa.

Serves 4

X4 200g monkfish fillets

2 tbsp vegetable oil

For the crispy duck

6 duck legs

120g course sea salt

1.5kg duck fat (vegetable oil can be used)

1sprig of sage

1sprig of rosemary

For the spiced lentils

1 medium red onion, peeled and finely chopped

40g ginger peeled and finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

2 medium chillies, seeded and finely chopped

75ml balsamic vinegar

50ml water

1 tsp cumin seed

1 tbsp ground cumin

250g puy lentils, cooked

Half bunch fresh coriander, finely chopped

60ml sweet chilli sauce

60g sundried tomatoes, finely chopped

60g tomato ketchup

40ml soy sauce

50ml olive oil

For the curry velouté

1 white onion roughly chopped

2 fresh tomatoes

Half red pepper flesh roughly chopped

2 cloves garlic roughly chopped

20g chopped ginger roughly chopped

Half tbsp cumin powder

1 tbsp of toasted coriander seeds crushed

1 tbsp ground paprika

1 tbsp of garam masala

5-6 cloves (dependent on taste)

1 star anise

Half tsp fennel seeds

Half tsp cumin seeds

1 medium fresh mango

1 tsp mild curry powder

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tin coconut milk

For the spiced lentils

Using a heavy based pan, add the onions, ginger, garlic, chillies and ground spices and seeds together with the water and balsamic vinegar. With the lid on, bring to the boil and allow to simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the remaining ingredients. Mix well and refrigerate overnight for the flavours to develop.

For the crispy duck

Lay the duck legs in a single layer in a plastic, porcelain or stainless-steel tray. Liberally sprinkle with salt and massage it into the meat. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of two hours.

Melt the duck fat in a large saucepan over a low heat. Brush the salt off the duck legs and pat dry with a cloth or kitchen towel. Carefully place the duck into the fat with the herbs, cover with greaseproof paper and simmer gently until tender, which should take approximately 1.5 hours. Do not let the fat boil. Turn off the heat and leave the duck to cool in the fat. 

Once cool, take out the duck. Carefully remove the duck skin trying to keep it intact. Set aside. Strip the meat from the duck leg bones and season with salt and pepper. Add one or two teaspoons of the duck fat to the meat to help set the meat when rolling it. Place a sheet of clingfilm onto a clear work surface. Spoon the duck meat into a sausage shape along the clingfilm and tie at both ends. Refrigerate until set. 

For the curry sauce

Heat the olive oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the onions, peppers, ginger and garlic and gently cook without colour until the mixture has softened. Add the spices and cook out for a couple of minutes. Add the diced mango and cover with the coconut milk. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 10 minutes. Then, reduce the heat to the lowest setting and let the sauce gently blip away for 45 minutes. Leave the sauce to cool, before blitzing with a blender until smooth. Add more coconut milk to taste if required.

For the monkfish – preheat oven to 180c

Add the oil to an oven-proof frying pan over a medium heat. Season the monkfish all over with salt and pepper, before frying for 2-3 minutes until it turns golden brown in colour. Turn it over and place in the oven for 12-15 minutes until the fish feels firm. Season to taste. Allow the fish to rest for 7 minutes before serving.

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