Nathan Outlaw is well known as the only fish-focused chef in the country with 2 Michelin stars and his first cookbook "Nathan Outlaw's British Seafood" has been long-awaited. It came out this week. Ollie (our CEO at Great British Chefs) was keen to get hold of a copy to review & try one of the dishes as soon as possible
Blog post & review by Ollie Lloyd
Nathan's best known as the only fish-focused chef in the country with 2 Michelin stars and his cookbook has been long-awaited. It came out this week and mine arrived yesterday morning. Clearly there was only one logical plan – choose a recipe, hit the nearest shop and cook dinner with my wife (and then catch up on the final installment of Homeland).
It is worth saying that my wife and I are obsessed with fish which being Island People should come as no surprise (she from Sri Lanka and me from Britain)! We regularly hit Billingsgate Market at 6.30am on a Saturday to cater for over-ambitious dinner parties and are fairly well known by our two local fishmongers.
Cornish salt pollack, squid and mussel stew by Nathan Outlaw
We have happily collected mussels from the shorelines of Cornwall after a particularly high tide and presented them to our horrified weekend hosts (to be fair they were a little on the sandy side). We have many a fish cookbook – (Tom Aiken’s ‘Fish’, Atul Kochar ‘Fish Indian style’, ‘The River Cottage Fish book’, Rick Stein’s ‘Seafood Odyssey’, Douglas Rodriguez’s ‘The Great Ceviche Book’), but there is always room for one more.
The first thing to say about Nathan’s book, is that, as the title suggests, it is dedicated to British fish. This book is packed with recipes for neglected fish; brill, megrim, witch, gurnard, rays and sardines. He transforms what he calls the ‘scary croaking gurnard’ into a ‘red gurnard soup with samphire and orange’. The humble herring (which is highly sustainable and should be eaten regularly straight from the barbeque), is offered up in a glamorous tomato soup with basil oil. He has transformed the viscous ling into burgers served with shallots and cider mustard relish.
With a forward from Rick Stein and over 250 pages, each recipe is clear, concise and has an accompanying image (which visual cooks like myself will greatly appreciate). The book introduces each fish with a tone of voice that is distinctly Nathan. He reveals that John Dory is not ugly but ‘unusual’, a by-catch for fishermen and due to an incident in Galilee also blessed by St Peter (hence the nickname Saint Peter’s fish).
Ling and razor clams with seaweed, bacon and samphire by Nathan Outlaw
He tells tales of coins found inside the body of Ling (they eat anything they can find) and gives helpful advice about which rays we should be eating (spotted, starry and cuckoo) and what we should be avoiding (skate).
Towards the end there is a section on stocks, sauces, garnishes and even breads to accompany his dishes. The only thing I wasn’t convinced by were the use of black and white images to illustrate the ‘preparation techniques’ section – a very minor complaint.
Red mullet and squid with oven-dried tomatoes, wild fennel and pickled mushrooms by Nathan Outlaw
For those who have cooked Nathan’s recipes before (see our page), you will know that his recipes are both complex and layered. This is what makes them exciting. Always on the look out for a new recipe for mussels, we were extremely excited by the idea of ‘mussel, spinach and cauliflower curry with crispy mussels’. Not only did the idea of a curry based sauce, inspired by a Goan chef Nathan knows, sound fantastic, but the combination of both steamed and deep-fried mussels sounded perfect for a Thursday night cooking challenge.
Mussel, spinach and cauliflower curry with crispy mussels from Nathan Outlaw's British Seafood book
It consisted of simple instructions that basically involved making a curry paste, adding tomatoes, onions and coconut milk to it and then cooking the mussels in this mixture with cauliflower and spinach. Parallel to this process was the simple task of steaming a few mussels, shelling them and the deep frying them. It was a thing of beauty – pungent, aromatic and hearty - and it is firmly on my list of recipes to repeat soon.
All I can say is that this book is going to be well used in our household and I can’t wait for the next edition of Homeland – I just hope it doesn’t end up on Sky like Mad Men has!
You can get hold of a copy of Nathan Outlaw's British Seafood (published by Quadrille) here.
What are some of the more uncommon fish that you've cooked or eaten? Gurnard, ling, John Dury, rays, pollock? Let us know over on Great British Chefs Facebook page.