Monkfish cheeks – Your hope for health and happiness.

Monkfish Cheek in Tomato SauceAs you look forward into another new year full of promise, you want your life to be simpler, less pressured and healthier. You are thinking about joining (or rejoining) the gym. You have resolved to eat healthier, to exercise more and to get up earlier in the day. It’s time you looked at your alcohol consumption too. Not that it is too high. It’s just average amongst the people (drunks) you know. If you are a smoker, you are going to give up the evil weed as soon as you go to bed in the early hours of January 1st.  You know you are going to do all these things because it’s a new year approaching and a time for renewal. A time for hope. A time to make a list of promises to yourself…

I have some good news and some bad news. What do you want first? People usually ask for the bad news first so here goes. I’ve made a list of only 5 things to keep it simple for you:

  1. You will lose weight in late January / early February. After that, well, you know about after that.
  2. You may will join or rejoin the gym but you will give up by end February.
  3. You may make some inroads into your alcohol intake but, by the time the first barbecue of the summer comes around, you will be thinking “Chardonnay or Pinot Gris?” rather than “Still or Sparkling?”
  4. If you are unlucky enough to be a smoker now, you will  probably be a smoker then. It’s just so difficult…
  5. The getting up earlier will never happen. You think about it now on the days you lie late in bed. Think about it.

Pretty depressing stuff for starting into the new year. However, there is some great news. I have a really tasty, healthy, cheap and easy recipe for you. Resolve to try it and your new year will get off to an excellent start. This is my recipe for Fresh Pasta with Monkfish Cheeks in Rich Tomato Sauce.

Egg and flour

Pasta ingredients – Egg and flour. Add a little olive oil if it needs it.

Here’s what you will need:

  • Half a kilo of fresh monkfish cheeks. Ask your fishmonger. They are really tasty.
  • A glass of nice red wine (the wine you are giving up for the new year)
  • A tin of tomatoes
  • A small onion
  • A clove of garlic
  • Smoked paprika
  • Thyme
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • An egg and 100 grammes of flour
  • Some olive oil
  • Additional flour for dusting the monkfish

As part of your new simpler life, you can follow these simple instructions:

  1. Make some fettuccine using the egg, 100g of flour and a small amount of olive oil.
    Pasta making

    Make the pasta. This is enough pasta for two. Don’t eat it all yourself. Remember the resolutions.


    Fresh pasta only takes a couple of minutes in the boiling water. Saving energy too! Purists may say this is not the best looking pasta. It tasted just beautiful.

  2. Chop the garlic and onion and soften in the pan. Remove and reserve.
    Garlic and onion

    Key ingredients to go with the tomato. Garlic and onion.

  3. Trim the membrane and yucky bits from the monkfish cheeks.
  4. Dust them in seasoned flour and fry in the remaining garlicy and oniony olive oil.
    Monkfish Cheeks

    Monkfish cheeks done dusted. Unlike your impending resolutions.

  5. When they look nearly cooked, add the tin of tomatoes, some thyme, a teaspoon of paprika and the glass of wine. Add back the onion and garlic.
    Monkfish Cheeks in Tomato Sauce

    Starting to come together nicely. This takes only about 20 minutes to cook in total.

  6. Chop the tomatoes with the wooden spoon, removing any tough bits. Do this rather than using a tin of chopped tomatoes. There are two good reasons. The whole tomatoes carry far more flavour and you need all the exercise you can get.
  7. Time the completion of the pasta with the thickening of the sauce. Put the pasta into a bowl and serve the monkfish over it. Add a sprig of thyme to make the photo look half-decent.
    Monkfish Cheek in Tomato Sauce.

    Monkfish Cheek in Tomato Sauce. Served with a sprig of thyme on top.

While you sit back having enjoyed this excellent meal, you can resolve to do something for a ‘new you’ in the new year.

Here’s how:
First, don’t fool yourself. If you want to make some real changes, do them one at a time. Decide on what you are going to do. Decide on a time frame. Analyse the real cost to you. Decide on your rewards for achieving your goal. Do it. Be proud of it. Then tackle the second thing on the list.Monk Cheek in Tomato SauceJust don’t try to give up smoking, drinking, cursing and womanising (or manising) all at once. Certainly not while you are trying to lose weight, get fit and get up earlier every morning. Do ’em one at a time. I know it can be done. I’ve done some of them.

One of my new year resolutions is to get better photos of the plated dishes. I really can do better… Happy New Year and thanks for reading.

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Latest comments
  • I’ve heard of cod cheeks, but never of monkfish cheeks. I bet they have big ones, though. Nice combination of flavors. In summer it would be even better with fresh tomatoes, but you are right to use tinned ones at the moment. I like the use of fresh pasta here. I’d probably ‘marry’ the pasta with the sauce before serving. Getting good photos of plated dishes is always hard as it’s cooling off and the wife/husband gets impatient 😉
    Good story about new year’s resolutions. I agree, and would like to add that I think good resolutions can start as well on May 13 or October 25 or any other random date as on January 1.

    • I never make a new year resolution. I do believe that people are only setting themselves up for failure. If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing no matter what the date. Good idea on the marrying of the sauce.

  • Beautiful dish Conor! And may you have a wonderful 2013 knowing that you don’t have to worry about your top 5 list unlike the rest of us 🙂

    • Thanks Danny. If only my list were of five things…

  • I never make a promise that I cannot keep therefore setting myself up on purpose for failure with resolutions that I most likely will not keep, is crazy. I am happy to see that I am not the only one. I cheer to our group!
    I wish you and your family a wonderful New Year 2013 filled with love, happiness and everlasting memories.
    My best,

    • Thanks Giangi, the very same to you and yours.

  • Have a great new year, Conor. I know the one thing that will remain constant in your life is good food such as this dish.

    • Thanks Karen, have a very happy and healthy 2013.

  • Lovely pasta, all the success for 2013, Conor

    • Thanks Mama Miyuki. The very same for you and yours.

  • Looks like another top dish again, Conor. Wise words too. 2 months into the no smoking regime so I totally support the gradual ticking them off approach – baby steps, the journey of a thousand miles and all that. The exercise can wait till after January’s Paris trip. Not just a reward for the lack of fags, but also the 22nd anniversary of my 28th birthday, hopefully t’will be a truly Bacchic binge! The last few, sad, grey hairs remind one that Rome wasn’t built in a day. (I appear to be hopping all round Europe at the mo). Oh well, we’ll always have great food with which to comfort ourselves and wine to drown any sorrows. Hopefully few of the latter.
    Best wishes to you and the family for a super 2013 and please keep up the great work. Adam

    • Thanks Adam, keep up the good work on the weed. I gave them up 25 years ago after a 60 a day habit. The day after I stopped, I cried for a cigarette. That is what convinced me that I could not allow them to have a hold on me. Once the decision is made, the rest is easier. Enjoy Paris. I am envious.

      • ‘She who must be obeyed’ gave up a couple of years ago after her (whisper it) 40th birthday and I just thought I don’t want to turn 50 still feeling that stupid. Long way to go but it’s a start! She’s also not been there so a belated reward for her too. Been spending much of the time off deciding what to eat, where and when. So many options … dinners largely sorted, but recommendations of bistros/restaurants/bars for cheap and cheerful authentic lunches, from you or your followers, appreciated.

        • In my experience, anywhere off the main drag will be excellent. Get into any of the local areas away from the main sights and you will not go wrong. Your wallet will thank you too.

  • The fettuccine look out of this world, better than my homemade ones but I would not eat the monkfish. I don’t like any kind of fish, it’s a shame because we have so much fish here in Sicily.

    • I am envious. Perhaps we could swap the cold wet Dublin for warm, dry Sicily for a while?

      • Oh, you’re in Dublin? Sorry I thought you were in the States. I have been to Ireland so many times, my brother lives there in Co. Kildare. I’ve been to Cork and Dublin. It’s such a beautiful island but my brother misses the Italian sun. Buon Anno!

        • I have a number of Italian friends over here. They tend to spend a good deal of their time ‘nipping’ back to the old country. IT seems to be the best way to deal with it. A Buon Anno to you too.

  • Wise words, great pasta dish. Need a bit of both. Have a great ’13 Conor 🙂

    • You too Sanjiv. I am looking forward to it already…

  • Hi, Conor. The food looks and sounds excellent, as usual. Loved the last photo. Are you using a F/1.8 macro? I learned a long time ago never to make New Years resolutions. The only resolution I have ever kept is not to make New Years resolutions. 😉 Wishing you and yours a very, very Happy New Years full of blessings, good health, laughter and great food. 😀

    • Thanks indeed Richard. The lens I have been using over the last while is a 1.8 50mm fixed lens. I have been using it to force myself into thinking more about the shots. This is not so easy with the ‘about to stuff it in your face’ shots towards the end. As I type, I have reverted to my 28/105mm F4. Using the camera from a few feet away. It’s a good thing I am in the kitchen on my own. I am attempting crab soufflé, following a chalenge from eldest daughter. More anon on that.
      I hope the McGary household has a fantastic New Year celebration and that 2013 turns out to be peaceful and happy for ye all.

  • Good dishes and already love your pictures the way they look 🙂 Wish you a Happy New Year too! 🙂

  • If people don’t make daft resolutions they won’t be disappointed 😉
    Great cheeks and pasta!

    • Thanks. Funny, it’s the lack of resolution that cause the problem…
      Have a great new year MD and keep posting your stuff. I really enjoy it.

  • Yucky bits? ..and you mocked me for having a cat check to see if my hands were washed clean of the smell of tuna that I had just hand-smushed!

    Happy New Year Conor. Hope 2013 treats you well.

    • Ha! You got me.
      Have a great new year Flori.
      Best as ever,

  • Like you, I’m not one for New Year resolutions. Resolving to do something isn’t date-dependent for me. I’ve been happy to finally find some good sources for fresh fish but I doubt if any are so good as to offer monk cheeks. Should I ever see them in a market, though, I know where to come for a great recipe. Thanks for sharing and I hope 2013 is a fantastic year for you and yours.

    • Thanks John. Wishing you and yours a peaceful and prosperous 2013.

  • Depressing indeed. But this eases the pain! Happy new year, Conor.

  • When on earth did you hack into my computer for the list of New Year resolutions [well, perhaps I am being unfair: I don’t smoke!] 😉 ! Was going to begin my regime Boxing Day, but the martyrdom of no wine for New Year seemed illogical! [and I WILL make myself keep to all proposed regimens!]. Love your recipe: monkfish cheeks in Oz – don’t make me laugh – but what is wrong with a substitution? So, thank you and the best for NY, even without resolutions!!

    • Hi Eha, no problem to you. The resolutions, not the cheeks. Happy new year.

  • Yum, looks easy and wonderful!
    Happy new year Conor and have a wonderful 2013!

  • Conor, I have it all sorted I know exactly what my new New Year resolution is going to be…I am going to wait for my finger to heal up and I am going to give this delicious fish cheek and fresh pasta dish a go. You know that the cheeks of the fish are the most priced and most tender portion of the fish. How did you get so many of them at once? I might have an issue trying to get that sorted in the wet market in Cantonese here in HK but that will give me something to work on in the new year… Wishing all the best in 2013. Take Care, BAM

    • Hi BAM,
      Thankfully the cheeks are not valued over here in Ireland. Long may it remain that way.
      Happy New Year to you and yours too.

  • Who’d have thought fish had cheeks. As for abstinence – I’m giving everything up one thing at a time. Over many years.

  • This dish really does look excellent and I love that you made your own pasta! =)

    • Thanks Squishy (I can’t bring myself to call you a monster).
      Happy New Year,

  • Eff yes! Fish cheek are awesome. We do fish head curry and whole baked fish around here and it always end in a fight as to who gets the cheeks. As you could imagine, they mostly go to my wife. All the best for the coming year and what ever resolutions you shall fail at!!

  • Blimey that looks good, Connor.

  • The fish cheek is indeed one of my favourite parts of the fish. I’m not familiar with monkfish but seeing how much care and delicacy you give to this piece makes my tummy very happy indeed. I love resolutions and I hate ’em. I think resolving to do or not to do is the internal conundrum for each brain during the new year.

    I agree though, that this dish is a definite do! 🙂

    • Thanks Alice. Happy New Year to you and yours.

  • A splendid & tasty dish! 🙂 I love monkfish cheeks a lot: they are so good, so tasty too! I love making my own pasta too! Yummmm!

  • Happy New Year to you! I love fish cheeks. They are the best part of the fish I think. Cod cheeks are such a delicacy here. Fried with scruncheons!

    • I must see if I can get my hands on cod cheeks. I have never heard of scruncheons. That’s what the internet is for!

      • They are fried pork fat. Small little bits of crispy fried salty pork fat is a traditonal accompaniment with cod here in Newfoundland. Very delicious.

        • It sounds very tasty and very bad for one. I think I’ll like it a lot.

  • beautiful pic of the tins!!

    • Thanks, the cheeks are impossible to photo as they are all a bright white colour and impossible to ‘style’. Not that styling is my style, if you know what I mean.

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