FROM THE ARCHIVES | NATHAN OUTLAW BRINGS FISH TO MEATOPIA 2017
The Meatopian, Meatopia’s on-site newsletter available exclusively on-site during the festival each year, is packed with delicious content from the years gone by. In this series, we’re diving into our digital time-machine to serve up some of the best reads from the Meatopian archives.
For Meatopia’s fifth anniversary, the (still) reigning Cornish King of Seafood, Nathan Outlaw, cooked the first ever fish-only dish at the festival. This piece ran in the Meatopian that year, diving deeper into his love of cooking fish over fire and picking up a few tips along the way — like how to avoid the dreaded grill-stick when barbecuing fresh fish.
Nathan’s 2017 dish of grilled mackerel was served up with pickled veg and a jalapeño mayonnaise, and was the first of many great seafood dishes to follow in years afterwards, like Lennox Hastie (of Firedoor, Sydney)’s n’duja octopus and Outlaw alumni Tom Brown (now of Cornerstone, London)’s grilled oysters with seaweed hot sauce.
FISH NO LONGER OUTLAWED AT MEATOPIA
From The Meatopian, 2017 by Joshua Burt
After five great years, Meatopia is finally bringing some fish to the table, care of the unparalleled seafood gods Nathan Outlaw and Mitch Tonks. If it feels long overdue, it’s because it probably is, but we’ve righted that wrong, and this year will see some wonderful fish gracing our trademark cardboard containers.
As any foodie will tell you, much of the ocean’s livestock was tailor-made for fire cookery, yet still, many a keen home-cook has come unstuck trying to impress with a seafood BBQ. Too dainty and the roaring flames will consume your dinner before you do, too moist and you will be tearfully scraping it off the grill and starting all over again.
Thankfully, we were able to chat with Nathan Outlaw, and he talked us through his love of cooking fish over fire, and gave us some really good tips along the way.
How do you feel about cooking fish over fire?
Fish was made for it, and in my restaurants, a lot of the fish is cooked over fire. In fact, I’d not only say it’s often the best way to cook fish, I’d argue that if you know how to do it well, it can even become the only way to cook it.
Do you remember when you first cooked fish this way?
I do, very well. When I was growing up in Cornwall, some of my fondest and earliest food memories were cooking mackerel on the beach. We’d catch it, then cook it over fire, and it tasted absolutely spectacular. In fact, my dish at this year’s event will hopefully go some way to capturing those memories, although I can’t guarantee the beach setting!
How do you feel about being the first chef to bring seafood to Meatopia?
I’m really chuffed .I know it’s called ‘Meatopia’ and it’s mainly about meat, but it’s nice to showcase seafood in that kind of arena. Hopefully I convince people that fish is just as good.
Can you offer us any advice on how to get it spot on?
Of course. It takes real skill to cook fish on coals, there’s so much you have to get right. The key thing is that the coals need to be really hot, you need them at that temperature where they’re glowing white — especially if you’re using something like mackerel, because it will cook very quickly. You want it at a high temperature so it blisters the skin up really nicely. Also, you should dry the fish out for about ten minutes before you cook it — if there’s any moisture on the fish, it’ll create steam and that will make it stick.
What’s the best fish to barbecue in your opinion?
Any fish that’s been on the bone can cook well on coals, but if you’re feeling flush and you’ve got money, get a whole turbot. It cooks so beautifully, and the skin renders down like fat — if you baste it with oil and vinegar, then let it rest for five to ten minutes, it creates a lovely sauce too. Lobsters are great, you get a lovely smokiness from the grill, and oysters too — if you put them on for a couple of minutes in the shell, they pop open and are really tasty. It’s a nice way of doing them.
Is there anything that should be avoided at all costs?
There’s a way of cooking over anything over coals if you know what you’re doing — you can use skewers or cook using a wire basket. But, generally I’d avoid anything cod-related. The skin is so delicate, it can be a bit of a nightmare, a fillet of fish is pointless too, it’s too thin.
Where’s the best place to get fish these days?
Fish travels around the country so much quicker now. If you ordered online you can normally get something the next day, no matter where you are. I’d say buy online from a fishmonger by the sea. I use The Cornish Fishmonger — the fish is really good, and you can get it to your doorstep just as quickly as your local fishmonger would.