Fried monkfish cheeks

Fried Monkfish Cheeks with Romesco Sauce and Confit Potatoes

An elegant starter or main course of crispy fried monkfish cheeks, confit potatoes and a zingy Romesco sauce

Fried monkfish cheeks are a delicious, interesting alternative to battered cod or other varieties of fried fish. This recipe pairs breadcrumbed monkfish cheeks with a vibrant Romesco sauce and slow cooked confit potatoes to make a great starter or main course.

Fish cheeks come from the head of the fish and considered by many to be the best part of any fish as they are really tender. Their small size means they’re perfect for frying – why? Even the smallest of monkfish cheeks are thick enough to be able to brown the exterior breading in the fryer whilst not overcooking the centre of the fish (i.e reached 45c internal temperature).

Recipe breakdown

This recipe serves two people – simply double the ingredients to serve 4 (apart from the lemon gel – there will be leftovers).

Deep fried monkfish cheeks
Fried monkfish cheeks with Romesco sauce

Deep fried monkfish cheeks

For this recipe, you’ll need around 300g of monkfish cheeks (either large or small) from your fish monger. It’s important to ask them to remove the sinew from them as this is tough and will ruin the end result. I chopped them into equal sized pieces to ensure that they cook evenly.

To deep fry the monkfish cheeks you’ll need to panné the cheeks with the traditional flour, beaten egg and breadcrumb combination. I’ve chosen panko breadcrumbs for this recipe as it gives a lighter, crisper exterior.

Romesco sauce

A romesco sauce is a Spanish red pepper, tomato and garlic sauce and it’s delicious. It’s a sauce rather than a purée as it’s more pourable compared to a denser purée. It’s slightly smokey from the smoked paprika and is zingy from the sherry vinegar. It’s a fair amount of work to prepare so I’d recommend doubling up the ingredients to make a larger batch. Traditionally almonds are used but I’ve gone for skinless hazel nuts which I toast in a pan before blending. I’ve also used a blowtorch to roast and char the skin before removing but you can also use store bought jarred roasted red peppers.

Confit potatoes

The most time consuming part of this recipe will be the confit potatoes. I’ve used an all purpose potato variety that I find here in France – the equivalent would be a Yukon Gold or Maris Piper. I’ve cut the potatoes out using a circular cutter and then charred them on a cast iron griddle pan. This charring imparts a smokey flavour which pairs perfectly with the Romesco sauce.


A small amount of lemon gel is added to the top of each fried monk fish cheeks to add a citrus flavour and break the richness of the fried fish. I also prepared a parsley oil which goes really well with the Romesco sauce. Finally I garnished the plate with pea shoots.


What you need

Crispy Monkfish Cheeks

300g of monkfish cheeks (sinew removed and cut into equal sized portions)
Flour, as required
Eggs, as required
Panko breadcrumbs, as required

Romesco Sauce

1 head of garlic
1 Red pepper (or 1 jar of store bought roasted red peppers)
40g of crushed canned tomatoes
50g of peeled hazel nuts
3g (1 teaspoon) of smoked paprika
40ml of sherry vinegar
40ml of olive oil

Confit potatoes

3 large all-purpose potatoes
Oil, for confiting

Parsley oil

1 large handful of parsley (stems included)
100ml of a neutral oil
Ice, as required to chill parsley

Lemon Gel

100g lemon juice
150g caster sugar
2g of salt
2g agar agar powder


For the confit potatoes

  1. Peel the potatoes and using a small circular cutter (1.5-2 inches) cut the potatoes and trim to ensure they are the same height.
  2. Preheat an oven to 120c and warm up a small sauce pan on a burner with enough oil to cover all the potatoes.
  3. Char the potatoes on a cast iron griddle, leave them to get enough colour (up to 10 minutes). Rotate 90 degrees to get a criss cross pattern.
  4. Once coloured, add them carefully to the oil ensuring that the potatoes are full submerged. Place the pan in the oven and cook for 1.5-2 hours or until potatoes are fully tender (use a cake tester to check resistance).
  5. Once cooked, remove carefully from the oil, pat dry using kitchen paper to remove excess oil and season with salt. Reserve.

For the Romesco Sauce

  1. Heat an oven to 180c. Remove the stem of a whole head of garlic and place on a small square of aluminium foil. Season with salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil. Wrap up tightly and place in the oven – roast for 40 minutes or until tender and golden brown.
  2. Skip this step if using store bought jarred roasted peppers. Whilst the garlic roasts, take a whole red pepper and burn the skin all over with either a blow torch or a gas burner if you have one. Once the skin is fully blackened put the pepper into a bowl and cover with a lid or plastic wrap. Let it steam for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes use kitchen roll to scrub off the blackened skin.
  3. Remove the stems, root and seeds and chop the steamed flesh into pieces and reserve.
  4. Toast the peeled hazel nuts on a medium high heat until slightly browned all over. Place into a blender (you could also use a stick blender with a high-walled container) and blitz until you have a fine powder.
  5. Take the garlic out of the oven and once cooled a little, squeeze the roast garlic out of the skins.
  6. Add the crushed tomatoes, chopped red peppers (or drained store bought jarred peppers), smoked paprika, sherry vinegar, olive oil and roasted garlic into a blender.
  7. Blitz until you have a consistency you’re happy with. Season with salt to taste.

For the lemon gel

  1. Juice lemons until you have 100g of juice and pass through a very fine sieve.
  2. Put lemon juice, sugar, salt and agar agar powder into a pan and bring to a boil. Once boiled add to a container and chill in the fridge.
  3. Once the mixture has cooled and solidified, add to a blender and blitz until you have a smooth gel. Remove air via a Chamber Vacuum Sealer if you have one (optional). Put into a piping bag or squeezy bottle and reserve.

For the parsley oil

  1. Wash the parsley thoroughly and bring a pot of water upto a boil. Place parsley into the boiling water and boil for 20 seconds. Remove and immediately plunge into ice water.
  2. Add parsley and oil into a blender and blitz until you have a vibrant green oil.
  3. Place a piece of kitchen paper over a sieve and let the oil drip though into a container. Once the oil has all filtered through and you have a clear oil, reserve.

For the Monkfish Cheeks

  1. Preheat a deep fat fryer or a pot of frying oil to 180c.
  2. Prepare the breading station. Take 3 bowls and add flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs separately to their own bowl. Beat the eggs so the white and yolk are combined.
  3. Season the cheeks lightly, add to flour and coat thoroughly. Shake off excess flour and then add to the beaten egg mixture. Once coated, add to the panko breadcrumbs and coat in breadcrumbs. Move back to the egg mixture and then again back to the breadcrumbs. Repeat for all cheeks.
  4. Fry until golden brown and the core temperature of the cheek meat hits 45c with an instant read thermometer. Remove and rest on kitchen roll to soak up excess oil. Season with salt.

To plate

  1. Add Romesco sauce to the bottom of the bowl or plate. Add 3 seasoned confit potatoes per plate and then add 3-5 (depending on if it’s a starter or main) crispy monkfish cheeks around the potatoes.
  2. Top each crispy monkfish cheek with a small amount of lemon gel.
  3. Add parsley oil around the Romesco sauce.
  4. Garnish with pea shoots.
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