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Sticky Lemon And Thyme Monkfish

By colm
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Meaty monkfish with a sticky, sweet and sour sauce. Flavoured with soy.

sticky lemon and thyme monkfish

I can still remember monkfish first appearing on restaurant menus in the early ’90s. For years it was just discarded by fishermen who were only interested in the species they could sell. And who can blame them they had to make a living after all.  it was once called a poor mans lobster, and maybe it still should given how much lobster costs.

But it was adventurous chefs putting monkfish on their menus that have made this once rarely eaten species one of our most popular fish dinners. We seem to have fallen in love with monkfish, though not for its good looks (do a google search or click here to see what I mean) I think this scary looking sea creature has probably been on nearly every menu I’ve written, and I’ve cooked it in most restaurants where I worked.

The Americans call it goosefish. A unique name for a very unique fish. Its firm, meaty texture is quite unlike any other fish. It can handle some of the tougher cooking methods too and It’s ideal for a soup or a stew because it won’t flake apart like most of its fishy counterparts.

lemon monkfish

Its firm flesh can also handle a marinade and some of the more robust flavours. Chilli, eastern spices like cumin or Asian flavours like I’ve used here all work wonderfully with monkfish. It’s the only fish I can think of where there’s more to eat than just the actual fish fillets themselves. It’s got big cheeks that can be removed and make a great scampi. The livers are also a delicacy in Japan apparently. The foie gras of the sea, I’d love to give them a try and am curious as to how they taste. I’m imagining an intense briny flavour with the texture of a chicken liver. I’ll have to get a hold of some and come up with a recipe.

Monkfish tails have a pink, glassy skin that’s got to be removed before you cook it. Leave it on and you’ll end up with a tough piece of fish. Unfortunately, your fishmonger is unlikely to do this job for you. It will end up costing him money…less weight = less money.

preparing monkfish

This recipe is super quick. Most of the ingredients you probably have sitting in your larder already. I sometimes make this sauce to go with chicken or as a dip for pork ribs. If you don’t have fish stock just use water it will still taste good. It’s also a recipe that’s not set in stone. Make it exactly how you want, to your own taste. Personally, I don’t like it too sweet, so I cut back a bit on the honey and add an extra squeeze of lemon. But If you want the sauce a bit sweeter add more honey. More tart, just add an extra dash of vinegar. More salt, an extra dash of soy…..you get the idea.

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sticky lemon and thyme monkfish

Sticky Lemon And Thyme Monkfish

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  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes


  • 800g / 28 oz monkfish tail (cut into 4 equal portions)
  • Sea salt and black pepper.
  • 3 tablespoons of sesame oil.
  • 4 chopped cloves of garlic
  • A few sprigs of thyme.
  • 50 ml / 1.6 oz sherry vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons of soy sauce.
  • 3 tablespoons of honey.
  • 200 ml / 6.7 oz fish stock.
  • 2 finely sliced lemons.
  • sprigs of coriander.


  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180c / 356f
  2. Remove the outer membrane from the monkfish tail and cut it into 4 equal size portions. If this membrane is left on it can be tough and cause the fish to curl up when you cook it.
  3. Season the monkfish with salt and pepper and heat the sesame oil in a large sauté pan.
  4. Brown the monkfish pieces over a high heat with the garlic and thyme for 1–2 minutes on each side until golden brown.
  5. Place the monkfish on a baking tray in the oven for 5-6 minutes to cook while you finish off the sauce.
  6. Add the sherry vinegar to the garlic and thyme left in the pan after you browned the monkfish. Bubble until reduced by half.
  7. Drizzle over the soy sauce and honey and shake the pan to mix.
  8. Pour in the fish stock and add the lemon slices.
  9. Let the liquid bubble and reduce down until syrupy, which will take about 5 minutes or so.
  10. By now the monkfish should be cooked through.
  11. Serve the monkfish with the sauce poured over and come coriander sprigs to garnish.


  • Serving Size: 4 portions

3 thoughts on “Sticky Lemon And Thyme Monkfish”

    • Hi Sharon,
      If you can’t get monkfish than scallops are the best alternative. You could also use any other fillets of large, flakey, sweet tasting, white fish…cod or haddock would work well.


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