In BBC2’s recent Great British Menu heats, Nathan Outlaw defended the simplicity of his mackerel dish against a trio of smug food critics, stating unequivocably that ‘he believed in his dish.’ This is why he has the world’s only seafood restaurant with two Michelin stars: a dedication to flavour is a reality chez Nathan, not just chef-spiel.
His first recipe book reflects this uncompromising ethos – British Seafood is as much a manual for preparing fish as it is a celebration of the flavour combinations that make St Enodoc in Rock such a pilgrimage for fish and seafood lovers.
The book divides into five chapters: Flat White Fish, Round White Fish, Oily Fish, Smoked Fish and Shellfish. Simples! From filleting to de-scaling, opening oysters to dealing with live crustaceans, there is also a chapter called Base Recipes including those all-important building blocks such as stocks, flavoured butters, oils, breads and the famed Outlaw mushroom ketchup.
One of my absolute favourites is the Crispy Oysters with Pickled Vegetables and Oyster Mayonnaise. It’s time we stopped being precious about these bivalve molluscs, yes, for the purists out there, they are delicious raw and slither down your throat like a sensuous caress from the bottom of the ocean; but they are equally delicious and become an entirely different experience if dropped into sizzling oil or put in the oven and cooked in their own shells (timing is everything however). This recipe is particularly good for the plump Porthilly oysters which are robust enough to take some heat.
British Seafood enables you to get your head around clams and cockles, lobster and crab – all highly sustainable seafoods that will outlive the bluefin tuna, whose fate is in the balance as you read; helicopters are tracking the last of the shoals to be stockpiled in the vaults of Mitsubishi and sold for big money once they are extinct. Mackerel is, according to Nathan, “without doubt my favourite fish” and is also a great sea-friendly option. Learn how to barbecue, cure and roast and how to make one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes: Mackerel on Red Pepper Tart with Smoked Paprika Mayonnaise, so popular that Nathan decided to take it off the menu as no-one was ordering anything else!
The beauty of this book is a sincere commitment to that jaded chef cliché: ‘let the ingredients speak for themselves': each fish has its own voice and some are even given a voice for the very first time such as witch, a member of the sole family. There are 2 or 3 recipes for each type of shellfish and fish and Nathan schools the home cook into lifting a simple fillet into the realms of the professional by adding saucy touches that are signature Outlaw.
Nathan’s Outlaw British Seafood is published by Quadrille, £25.