Top seafood chef shares his recipes
Chef Nathan Outlaw recently embarked – quite accidentally – on an acting career. Look closely and listen well, and you’ll catch the 41-year-old restaurateur in new movie Fisherman’s Friends, a film based on 10 singing Cornish fishermen who got a record deal.
But Port Isaac-based Outlaw is not convinced an acting career is going to usurp his culinary endeavours. “I did one line and it took me eight takes!” Which is understandable, after all he’s still the only chef in the UK with a two Michelin star seafood restaurant.
Now, Restaurant Nathan Outlaw has its own eponymous cookbook to match. The recipe collection considers a year in the life of the hilltop restaurant, moving deftly through the seasons as the dining room’s views out over the Atlantic shift too.
Outlaw calls it a “real snapshot” of what he and his team do, and sees it as an opportunity for people to capture a bit of that at home, even if they can’t make the schlep to north Cornwall.
He’s particularly fond of the spring chapters. “It’s that time of year when you go from having hardly any ingredients, to all of a sudden having lots of different ingredients, which is fun when you love cooking,” he said.
“Nothing beats the first really good crab that comes in. When the weather starts to settle down, the fishermen can start to get out.”
Even when he’s not on service, Outlaw struggles to forsake seasonality. “I can’t bring myself to eat asparagus in November from somewhere far-flung. It’s a completely different thing I think – it may look like asparagus, but it’s not.”
The chef says that although the book is bound with a fine dining restaurant, the recipes themselves are more than achieveable in any home kitchen.
“In terms of the actual complexity of recipes and dishes, they’re actually quite simple, that’s always been the way I cook,” he explained .
“You look at it and think, ‘It’s a nice piece of fish in a sauce’, but it’s about sourcing that fish, understanding the textural aspects of cooking that fish, and then making the sauce with depth of flavour, and the work that goes into the stock. These are the sorts of things I’m giving away with this book, so people see the amount of work that goes into something that looks so simple.”
Kent-born Outlaw – who trained with Gary Rhodes and giant of the seafood world Rick Stein before setting up on his own, first fell for fish not as a foodstuff – but as a connection to the world of the people who haul them in from the ocean.
Decades on, whether catching it, cooking it or prepping it, he’s still endlessly fascinated with seafood, as well as the fishermen.
“I like sitting there and having a chinwag with the fishermen. I think they’re brilliant, they have so many stories. Whether they’re true or not, I’m not always sure.”