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The Caterer

Book review – Nathan Outlaw's British Seafood

22 May 2012
Book review – Nathan Outlaw's British Seafood

Nathan Outlaw's British Seafood
By Nathan Outlaw
Quadrille Publishing, £25
ISBN 978-1849491150

It always amuses me to find that those responsible for creating the most delicate dishes are often huge, burly chefs. Nathan Outlaw is a prime example of this incongruity and this colossal guy creates some of the most sumptuous seafood imaginable.

Outlaw has a two-Michelin-starred restaurant, as well as the more informal Seafood & Grill, both located at the St Enedoc Hotel in Rock. His new book Nathan Outlaw's British Seafood tends more towards his bistro style of food. Although the dishes initially appear simple, when you look closer at the collaboration of flavours it is easy to see why he has achieved two Michelin stars; he creates combinations that on the face of it are obvious, but only obvious once Outlaw has pointed them out.

Seafood cookery is all about using the freshest possible ingredients and, to employ the laboured expression, "letting the ingredients speak for themselves". Outlaw's book is an invaluable aid to achieving this. Like all great chefs he is not prescriptive about how you cook fish; his book is an open invitation that says, "Go to the market, bring back the best fish and here are some ways to prepare it."

The book is broken down into a couple of pages on each type of fish and shellfish. He gives a few recipes for each species and a flow diagram with a handful of different garnishes, sauces, dressings and accompaniments that work for that type of seafood. Therefore, from a few simple pages there are an exponential number of dishes for you to discover.

I was particularly taken by the red gurnard soup with samphire and orange; salt ling with razor clams, bacon, onion and bay purée; and poached ray with leeks, lentils and sherry vinegar. These recipes are all straightforward, yet beautifully conceived, and clearly show off Outlaw's deft abilities with seafood.

We are experiencing a renaissance of cookery in the UK and, as consumers become increasingly adventurous, reference books like this are an invaluable aid to preparing increasingly complex and unusual produce. It is clear Outlaw has spent his formative years wisely. He has learnt his craft thoroughly and he manages to explain the mystic arts and tricky preparation techniques of seafood cookery in simple layman's terms.

Being a seafood chef these days is a difficult business, particularly because there is a political dimension regarding what's ethical to use. Outlaw takes time to carefully evaluate each ingredient and explains how to cook with a clear conscience.

From every perspective he has crafted an elegant seafood cookery book that is inspiring to read, provides new recipes, encourages the reader to create ideas of their own and is an invaluable reference for techniques.
By James Nathan, 2008 MasterChef winner and private chef

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