Pan Fried Monkfish Medallions at Ashburton Cookery School, Devon - recipe

Learn how to tackle dinner parties the express way at Ashburton Cookery School. We start with Pan Fried Monkfish Medallions.

Does the thought of throwing a dinner party for eight send you into last-minute thoughts of phoning the local Chinese takeaway? Well, have no fear, 'Devon Life' is here. Or, rather, Devon Life by proxy for Ashburton Cookery School, who kindly invited us along to one of their 'Express Dinner Parties' one-day courses.

Our tutor for the day was former head chef at Holne Chase Hotel, Joe Bartlett, one of half-a-dozen chef/tutors who, between them, turn ordinary men and women with a mere interest in cookery into something approaching zealots in the kitchen. Joe combined simple demonstration of dishes with paired and individual hands-on preparation and cooking.

The course was called 'Express Dinner Parties' and that is just what it was. With the exception of the saffron foam and pea pur�e, all the dishes were quick to prepare, and the starters and desserts could mostly be prepared well in advance, requiring simple reheating or final preparation and presentation, leaving the cook more time to concentrate on the main course and spend time relaxing with the guests.

We cooked or prepared two different full three-course dinner-party menus - one that we took away to finish and eat at home and one that we ate in stages throughout the day as the dishes progressed. And, let me tell you, when Joe says 'serve the chocolate pot in small ramekins' he means just that, because this is a rich dish and any chocaholic will think they've found the key to paradise.

Ashburton Cookery School runs a whole selection of different courses throughout the year, and if you're looking for the ideal present for anyone with the slightest interest in cooking - look no further.

The following recipes serve 8 for a dinner party

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The recipes



8 monkfish tails

Corn oil to coat

Salt, pepper and lemon juice to season


1 Using a filleting knife, trim the monkfish tails to remove sinews then cut into even-sized medallions. Coat completely with a little corn oil.

2 Pre-heat a non-stick frying pan until it starts to smoke. Carefully place the monkfish and turn the heat down slightly, then cook for approximately 1 minute on each side so that they are caramelised, but undercooked in the middle (this is important, since overcooked monkfish is rubbery and unpleasant).

3 Place on kitchen paper, season with salt, pepper and lemon juice then arrange on a serving plate.

For the pea pur�e

800g frozen peas (fully defrosted)

500ml boiling water

100ml double cream

Salt and pepper to taste


1 Blanch the peas in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, being careful not to lose the colour of the peas. Strain and liquidise until smooth, then pass through a sieve.

2 Boil the cream and add to the peas in a clean pan. Reheat, season and serve.

For the saffron foam

2 banana shallots, peeled and halved

1 clove garlic, peeled and halved

400ml skimmed milk

2 pinches of strand saffron

Salt and pepper to taste


1 Add the shallots, garlic and saffron to the skimmed milk, bring to the boil, turn off the heat and allow to infuse for at least 1 hour. Strain through a fine sieve.

2 Season with salt and pepper and blitz with a hand blender to create a frothy foam.



8 medium-sized duck breasts (150g-175g)

Salt and pepper and five spice to season

1 clove garlic, sliced

Small piece of ginger, finely chopped

2 bok choi, quartered

Half a red chilli, finely chopped

4 spring onions, sliced

20 mangetouts, cut in half diagonally

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp runny honey

100ml chicken stock


1 Score the skin of the duck breasts several times, then rub in a little seasoning and five spice to taste. Place in a cold, non-stick frying pan, put it on the heat and cook gently on the skin side for 6 minutes with no additional oil (the duck breast will create its own fat). Turn over onto the flesh side and seal for 1 minute. Turn back over, season with salt and pepper and place in a hot oven at 220C for 6 minutes.

2 Remove the duck from the oven, place on a chopping board and then rest for 5 minutes before carving and whilst cooking the saut�ed greens.

For the saut�ed greens

1 Heat a little oil in a wok, add in the chopped garlic, ginger and chilli and cook for 30 seconds. Add the sliced spring onions, bok choi and mangetout and cook for a further minute.

2 Add the chicken stock and simmer for 2 minutes, then add the honey and soy sauce and bring back to the boil and reduce until a little syrupy. Season to taste.


Serves 14 small ramekins


700ml double cream

400g dark chocolate

60g broken amaretti biscuits

Amaretto to taste


1 Gently warm the cream to approx 50C, having meanwhile melted the chocolate in a bain marie.

2 Start stirring the melted chocolate into the cream a little at a time. Use a whisk if necessary to mix well.

3 Add a couple of teaspoons of Amaretto to the chocolate mix and taste. Add more if required.

4 Carefully fold in the broken amaretti biscuits and transfer to the ramekins. Allow to set in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours.

5 Decorate with a quenelle of whipped cream and previously prepared piped chocolate motifs, and serve with fresh raspberries if required.

For further information on the courses available from Ashburton Cookery School,

visit: www.ashburtoncookery

tel, 01364 652784.

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