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Grilling in the Woodfired Oven – Monkfish Tails with Lemon & Herbs

In this workshop, we’re adding to our technical playlist and talking about using the woodfired oven as a barbecue, a really great way to use your oven and shows the versatility of this fantastic bit of equipment; well you know we’re biased so crashing on!

Do check out the video on our Youtube Channel here. We’re cooking some awesome food of course but it’s a technique you can use for grilling many different ingredients – steaks, chops, sausages, veggies, kebabs, other fish, seafood….

Grilling in the Woodfired Oven - Monkfish Tails with Lemon & Herbs

If you’re using your woodfired oven like a barbecue, you don’t need to fully heat it; you can just create a bed of coals from hardwood on the oven floor just as if you were using, well, a barbecue! It’s a quick and simple way of using the woodfired oven.

Light a fire as normal and let if burn down to a good bed of coals, then put a Tuscan grill over the top to heat up before adding your food. If you need a Tuscan grill and you’re in the UK, we have them in our online shop here 

We use the Petromax Tuscan grill – it’s cast iron so holds a lot of heat, nice and sturdy and cleans easily in hot soapy water. (We put it back in the oven once cleaned with a light coating of sunflower oil to thoroughly dry out before the next use which stops any rust developing). It’s also light and not too bulky so easier than other weightier ones to move around.

We are using the super-dry kameeldoring wood from Fire Masters UK who import the wood from farmers in Namibia collecting fallen branches or dead trees; they sent us a pack to see what we thought. Traditionally used for the South African Braai, it’s a good addition to your woodfired cooking arsenal. It’s very hard, very dry (less than 2% moisture) as it’s baked under the southern African sun and burns for a long time creating a great bed of embers, releasing heat while you cook. The smokey flavour is delcious and the smell of the wood burning, releasing its smoke took us back to our travesl in Southern Africa. It does come in small pieces but we broke it down even more to have more control and management of the temperature. More info on their website here

At lower temperatures, the wood will create smoke which then flavours the food so do try with a variety of woods for different results – the kameeldoring is delicious, qtuie earthy and aromatic. Fruit woods are falvoursome and readily available – cherry, apple, pear, plum. We use oak as we have lots of that around.

David is grilling a simple supper dish of monkfish with lemon and herbs with a crusty breadcrumb coating from the fabulous Seahorse Cook Book, created by our friend Mitch Tonks at the Seahorse Restaurant in Dartmouth. It’s been a firm favourite on their menu since opening so do book in there when you are next in South Devon. More on the Seahorse website here

Grilling in the Woodfired Oven - Monkfish Tails with Lemon & Herbs

Anyway on with the cooking!

Ingredients for 2

400g monkfish tail, (net weight) skinned and boned (make sure to take off the inner fine membrane too otherwise that will tighten up on cooking)

30ml white wine

30ml olive oil

1tbsp dried white breadcrumbs

Finely grated zest 1 large lemon and the juice of half of it

1tsp fennel seeds, ground up in a pestle and mortar

1tsp fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped

1tsp fresh rosemary leaves (no stalks) finely chopped

Salt and pepper

Oven state, equipment, door etc

A good bed of embers created from some kiln dried hardwood; you don’t need to heat through the entire oven, you’re just grilling over the coals.

Door off

Tuscan grill for sitting over the embers

A good pair of gauntlets

A pair of tongs

Rosemary brush for oiling the grill with a little sunflower oil. We make the brush out of some rosemary sprigs held together with an elastic band or piece of spring and once it’s used, it goes in the compost bin. We’ve found if we use a pastry brush to do this, the heat just burns away the bristles. If you haven’t got a handy rosemary brush in the garden, a walk round your neighbourhood should mean you find some overhanging a fence or a wall.

Grilling in the Woodfired Oven - Monkfish Tails with Lemon & Herbs

Our sacrificial rosemary brush


  • Mix the oil and white wine together in a large bowl and add the monkfish pieces. Leave for 30 minutes.
  • Create a bed of embers in the centre of your oven, by burning down some of the hardwood you are using to flavour your fish. Once the embers are ready, sit the Tuscan grill over it so it heats through thoroughly.

    Grilling in the Woodfired Oven - Monkfish Tails with Lemon & Herbs

    Burning down the kameeldoring – not much needed

  • In a large bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs with the lemon zest, ground fennel seeds and chopped thyme and rosemary. Season well with salt and pepper.
  • Add the monkfish pieces to the breadcrumb mix and toss together to get the herby, zesty breadcrumbs to stick to the fish.

    Grilling in the Woodfired Oven - Monkfish Tails with Lemon & Herbs

    The breadcrumby monkfish tails

  • Use your sacrificial oil brush to lightly coat the hot Tuscan grill with sunflower oil. Add a few small pieces of your smoking wood to the embers if you need more smoke.
  • Using your tongs add the monkfish pieces to the top of the grill and let them cook gently for 5 minutes or so on each side until the fish is bright white and firm.
  • Serve at once with the lemon juice squeezed over the top and another drizzle of olive oil.
    Grilling in the Woodfired Oven - Monkfish Tails with Lemon & Herbs

    Add a squeeze of lemon and a dash of olive oil and enjoy!


  • Monkfish is perfect for barbecuing and grilling over coals as it’s a dense fish that holds together well. It’s also boneless so is great for people who don’t like fish bones.
  • You can use other fish though – do try John Dory fillets, raw prawns, salmon fillets, cuttle fish, octopus.
  • Mix up the herbs that you use in the breadcrumbs. Try some parsley or chervil or tarragon, even lemon verbena.
  • If you haven’t got dried breadcrumbs, fresh white breadcrumbs work too.

Wine suggestions

Huge thanks to Suzie at Michael Sutton’s Cellars for the wine suggestions this week. Here’s what she had to say and both red and white suggestions sound delicious –

“The fennel in the monkfish dish has caused me a few probs because it is tricky to match. So I would either choose a chilled Albariño – lovely with herbs & lemon. Or if you wanted to go red to head off the aniseed flavours of the fennel I would go for a Chianti Classico (sangiovese) which has the acidity & herbaceousness and would love the smoky wood-fired element of the dish.” Cheers!

More Woodfired Fish & Seafood Recipes in our Book!

Grilling in the Woodfired Oven - Monkfish Tails with Lemon & Herbs

Available online here!