Nathan Outlaw is 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 instalment 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.
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 barbecue), 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).