Introduction - Everyday Seafood - Nathan Outlaw

Everyday Seafood - Nathan Outlaw (2016)


Seafood is the best convenience food ever! That’s a bold statement, but it’s true. Most seafood will cook within minutes - much faster than any ready prepared meal - and that, for me, is what makes it such a great choice for everyday meal occasions. I wanted to write this book to unlock the myth that seafood is a tricky thing to deal with: it’s not. Follow my recipes and you will realise just how easy it is to cook.

Each recipe has been tested to make sure it can be cooked successfully at home - taking into account timing, availability of ingredients and the equipment needed. I’ve done this personally, so I know the recipes work and that you’ll be able to follow them easily. The biggest single piece of advice I can give you is to read through the method before you start to cook, especially with the slightly more ambitious dishes.

The recipes are a collection of my take on classics from far and wide, with the simple approach to seafood that I’m known for. I’ve made sure the ingredients are accessible and can be bought easily because I don’t want you to be put off by long lists of unfamiliar items.

However, the most significant point about the ingredients is that all the fish and shellfish used in these recipes is sustainable at the time of writing. The importance of sustainability is something I cannot stress enough. Please ask questions when you are buying. Any fishmonger or supplier worth your custom will have an acute awareness of sustainability and know where their seafood has come from. If they can’t answer your questions, don’t buy from them.

Once you become more confident, I hope you’ll treat my recipes as a guide rather than stick to them. Feel free to play around with different fish and flavourings. It gives me such pride and pleasure when someone tells me they’ve tried a recipe from my book and then cooked it differently next time, adding this or that, and it tasted just as good… or better!

The recipes can be scaled up or down to suit your needs, so don’t be put off if a recipe serves four and there’s just two of you. Just halve the quantities, or double or triple them for a crowd. It will be fine.

And finally, although this book will look lovely on your coffee table, I would much rather see it in the kitchen covered in splatters of food. I’ve written it to be used, so please go ahead… and enjoy!

Why eat fish and shellfish?

Apart from the fact that very fresh seafood tastes wonderful, there are many health benefits. Current guidelines suggest that we should eat at least two portions of fish a week. Not enough if you ask me! Fish is an excellent source of protein, vitamins and minerals. Oily fish has the significant added bonus of being rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help to keep our heart, joints, skin and eyes healthy. And some of the smaller oily fish can be eaten whole, so they provide a particularly rich source of calcium and phosphorus.

For those who need to follow a low fat diet, the obvious choice is white fish, although not cooked in batter or breadcrumbs. Shellfish is also low in fat and a good source of zinc, iodine, copper and selenium. Mussels, oysters and crab provide a fair amount of omega-3 fatty acids too.

However, we need to set a few limits on the amount of oily fish we consume as they sometimes contain low levels of pollutants, which can build up in the body. It is suggested that we should eat no more than four portions of oily fish per week. For anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding, this reduces to two portions per week.

Bream, bass, turbot and brown crabmeat may also contain low levels of pollutants so it makes sense to eat these in moderation too. Swordfish is not featured in my book, but I should warn you that it can contain significant levels of mercury and should be restricted to a maximum of two portions per week. Anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid swordfish altogether.

You are now forewarned! But I doubt whether any of you are planning to eat fish at every meal so these issues are unlikely to be a problem.

Buying and storing seafood

It goes without saying that you should buy the freshest fish available to you. It could be that you are lucky enough to have a ‘proper’ fishmonger on your doorstep, or maybe even access to the fishermen themselves. If not, you will find that some of the better supermarkets now employ trained staff on their fish counters, so don’t be reticent to buy from them. Remember to take a cool bag with you to bring the fish home in; it will keep that much fresher.

Always take a look around the place you’re buying from. Make sure it’s clean and that the fish is displayed well. Also check out those behind the counter. They should be confident and handle their fish and shellfish cleanly and carefully. And they must be able to answer any questions you have about the fish they are selling. If they can’t, it’s best to give the place a wide berth.

All fish and seafood should smell of the ozone rather than ‘fishy’. If it smells at all unpleasant, don’t buy it! Make sure that whole fish look good. They should be intact with no visible damage to any part. Eyes should be bright and clear, gills should be vivid red, and any scales that you expect to be there should be in place. Flat fish should be firm and have some sea slime on the surface. Oily fish should have retained their natural colour and be vibrant, not dull.

In the case of shellfish, you will also need to check on their status. Molluscs need to be alive when you buy them. If clams, cockles, mussels or oysters have open shells, tap them firmly and if they don’t close readily, don’t buy as this indicates that the shellfish are no longer alive.

One exception to the ‘live’ rule is scallops, which often come to the market ready prepared and cut from the shell. However, they should still smell ozony and sweet. Also, make sure they are firm and haven’t been left to soak. If any of these criteria aren’t met, leave them in the shop!

When buying lobsters and crabs, again, they should be alive. Check there are no bubbles coming from their mouths as this is a sign that they are stressed and it will affect the quality of their meat. Lobsters should have long antennae; short ones suggest the lobster has been stored for a long while and has either begun to eat itself or been eaten by others.

Finally, the cephalopods - squid, octopus and cuttlefish - really need to be eaten within a couple of days of being caught. Their eyes should be bright and the creatures should be intact, with no signs of changing colour to pink, as this suggests they have seen better days.

If you’ve found a bargain or someone has brought you lots of freshly caught fish, don’t turn it away - most fish freezes well.

Ideally, seafood should be eaten within 24 hours of buying. Store it wrapped in a damp cloth in the coldest area of the fridge. Don’t let it sit in water though, as this will impair the flavour. The fridge needs to be between 0°C and 2°C. If you can, cover the wrapped fish with a layer of fresh ice - don’t let it touch the fish directly as this will cause ‘freezer burn’. Stored carefully on the bone, most fish will be fine for several days.

If you know that you won’t be eating the fish within a few days, take it off the bone, make sure it’s completely dry, then wrap it tightly in cling film and put it in the freezer as soon as you can. It will keep quite happily for up to 2 months. In the case of lobster and crab, cook before freezing, cool and wrap securely before putting into the freezer. Always allow fish and seafood to defrost slowly in the fridge before cooking.

Fish prep tools and equipment

Buying equipment for cooking can be daunting - there’s so much out there to choose from. I’ve put together a list of the items I use day in, day out and have been using for the last twenty years. Remember though, this is my personal choice and you may already have, or prefer to buy, something different. That’s fine, but please make sure you buy good quality products. Trust me, if you skimp, you’ll only be buying again soon, which is not only frustrating, it can end up costing you more…


I strongly recommend investing in a selection of good knives for your kitchen. The following are the ones I use all the time:

Filleting knife There are many types of filleting knife on the market, with various uses. I use a thin, semi-flexible bladed one. You can get some that are very flexible but they are not easy to sharpen. If you buy a good quality filleting knife, it should last a lifetime.

Cook’s knife I tend to use two cook’s knives. One has a 25cm long blade. The other is heavier with a 30cm blade - it needs to be because I use it for bashing lobsters and crabs and steaking fish. It’s much safer to use a heavy knife for jobs like this so that it doesn’t bounce off and injure you. I use the lighter 25cm knife for slicing and chopping, and I keep the blade razor sharp.

Paring knife A good paring knife is a must. Don’t be tempted to buy one that’s too big or you’ll find it clumsy to handle, when you are peeling garlic or an onion for example. Keep it nice and sharp at all times. Apart from preparing veg and fruit, I also use a small paring knife for scaling fish, but do be careful if you try this - It’s much safer to use a proper fish scaler.

Serrated knife A strong serrated knife is most useful for cutting off fish heads. When I’m dealing with bigger fish, I always cut the head off first as I find it gives you more control when filleting.

Oyster knife It took me years to find an oyster knife that I like to use. The one I own and love has a wooden handle and a firm but short blade. I always keep it sharpened so it slices through the muscle cleanly, giving a very presentable oyster.

Firm bladed boning knife This is a personal preference and technically not a correct use of this knife but I find a boning knife is the best one to use for opening scallops. If you’re planning to open lots of scallops, I’d suggest investing in one.


I’ve always been terrible at keeping my knives sharp. It’s not the most interesting of jobs to do in the kitchen. However, I had a revelation when I discovered a sharpener with a guided sharpening wheel on it. I’m not really one for gadgets but since I’ve been using this, my knives are always sharp and ready to rock. A great investment!

Rubber mallet

I always use a rubber mallet when I want to steak fish into portions. Hitting the heavy 30cm cook’s knife with the mallet leaves you with a very clean and precise cut.

Microplane grater

This is probably one of the most frequently used pieces of kit in my kitchen. These graters are worth every penny and if looked after properly should last you for ages. We use them for zesting citrus fruit and grating cheese, garlic, chocolate, etc. Trust me, once you begin using one, it will become an integral part of your life in the kitchen. One word of warning though: they are very sharp, so mind your fingers!


A Japanese mandoline is a good friend to have in your kitchen. I use one a lot for finely slicing vegetables, such as fennel, for salads and pickles. Again, be very careful. Fingers and mandolines don’t mix!

Thin-handled dessertspoon

This has a few, important functions. Firstly, it’s ideal for scooping a scallop out of its shell because the bowl is made of thin, rounded metal, almost the same shape as the rounded side of a scallop shell. Secondly, I use it when picking crabs. Using both handle and bowl ends, these spoons can get into every crevice of a crab shell, enabling me to prise out every last piece of that fantastic crabmeat. Also, they tend not to break the cartilage too much, and you don’t want that in your crabmeat. Of course, these spoons are also useful for tasting as you cook, and for serving up when you are aiming to get the presentation precise.

Pin-boning tweezers

These are an absolutely essential item for your fish prepping kit. Make sure you buy a pair that have no flex to them. The flexible ones seem to struggle to grab smaller bones.

Chopping boards

It is worth investing in a good quality blue plastic chopping board if you plan to do lots of fish prep. When you have finished using it, always wash the board with cold water rather than hot, as hot water will cook the remaining debris and make the board smell.

Always dry the board thoroughly before putting it away too, as again it will smell if you don’t.

For other food prep, I love using my large wooden chopping boards, but I really wouldn’t recommend wood for preparing fish, as it is very difficult to clean the fish debris from. Never, ever be tempted to put your wooden chopping board into the dishwasher as it does very strange things to them!

Small stainless steel bowls

These are not expensive to buy but they are so useful to have to hand for all sorts of purposes, from holding preprepped ingredients to mixing small quantities of dressing and storing food in the fridge. Get several - you’ll be reaching for them all the time!


I would recommend having a choice of sieves in your kitchen. It just makes it easier to achieve the desired result. A fine sieve is best for sauces and stocks. A slightly coarser sieve is great for purées and breadcrumbs. A large conical strainer is useful for straining fish stocks.

Heat resistant spatula

A good quality flexible, heatproof rubber spatula is a great kitchen tool. Ideal for mixing, it gets right into the edges of the pan or bowl you’re using, and enables you to scrape out every last bit when you have finished.

Electronic digital scales

Having electronic digital scales to hand in your kitchen makes life that much easier. Try to get scales that have a decent sized platform and weigh in metric and imperial for both dry goods and liquids. Take care of them though. They are quite delicate and feature at the top of our ‘Chef, the equipment is broken’ list!

Electric blender/processor

Once again, it pays long term to buy robust, good quality small electrical appliances. If you want soups and purées that are really fine, a powerful electric blender or food processor is a must. Always be careful when putting hot liquid into a blender though, as the machine has a tendency to throw the liquid up at you as hot air builds up.

Electric mixer

I don’t often use my mixer when I’m preparing fish, but it’s really handy for puddings. If you are thinking of buying one I would recommend a KitchenAid. Yes, they are expensive but they are robust and they look pretty snazzy too.


There are loads of pans on the market but if you want a really good long-term investment, choose the ones with heavy bottoms and tight-fitting lids. If they’re ovenproof, even better. A thicker bottomed pan helps cook food more evenly and gives you lots of residual heat when you take it off the heat source. They are also good to braise in, hence the need for a tight-fitting lid.

For pan-frying fish, a good quality non-stick pan is essential as far as I’m concerned. You need to look after it though. Don’t leave it on the heat as you might a cast iron pan. If you do, after a while the coating will burn off… you really don’t want bits of non-stick coating in your food.

Oven and grill trays

Whether you are grilling or baking, you need to invest in some good quality trays. If they are too thin, they’ll buckle under the heat and the food won’t cook evenly. Buy a range of sizes - from trays big enough to hold a couple of fish fillets up to one big enough to take a whole fish. If you buy cast iron, make sure that you dry them well after washing or they will go rusty. A little tip: I always wash and dry my trays then finish them in a warm oven to make sure they are thoroughly dry.


Steaming fish shows off the freshness of the fish and the purity of its flavour. It’s one of my favourite ways to cook fish. A steamer is a great piece of kit and worth every penny. If you’re very fortunate you may have an integrated steamer in your oven. Otherwise, you can buy one to use on the hob. You might choose to get one of the tall electric steamers, but I prefer to use a simple metal steamer.

Pairing wine with seafood

Damon Little, Sommelier, Restaurant Nathan Outlaw

There’s nothing better than discovering a sensational new wine - one that ticks all the boxes, and every sip is absolute bliss. If it’s then paired successfully to a recipe the pleasure is heightened even further.

If you are feeling a little adventurous and fancy trying something new, consider buying wine from an independent wine merchant. Often the people who work there will have tasted most of the wines on offer and will be able to give you sound advice and make suitable suggestions.

Higher price does not necessarily indicate better quality wine, as you may be buying a very expensive wine that is not ready to drink and could therefore be rather unpleasant. Having said that, please be aware that if you purchase a wine for £5 almost half of that goes towards excise and duty, leaving wine that is, in reality, worth approximately £2.50. Deduct VAT, the cost of the bottle, transport, the retailer’s mark-up and the producer’s mark-up and eventually the liquid in the bottle is worth only a few pennies… Are you really going to enjoy that?

If you are not sure where to begin when it comes to choosing wine to drink with seafood, my advice would be to start by having your favourite wine with your favourite recipe. You’ll get to know which combinations are pleasurable and which are not so good. Most of us would taste the wine before eating, so sip the wine again after a mouthful of food and see how the food affects the wine and vice versa.

There are many, if not hundreds, of wines that work well with seafood beyond the familiar classic partners, such as Muscadet or Champagne with freshly shucked oysters. The most successful pairings occur when the structure of the wine works in harmony with the structure of the recipe. The structure of wine can be broken down into body and flavour intensity, acidity and sweetness.

Body and flavour intensity

A bold dish requires a bold wine. The most practical way to determine the body of a wine is to compare the mouth-feel to that of water, milk or cream, which would translate to light, medium and full bodied. Match the textures of your recipe with the body of your wine. If the dish is bold then the flavours of wine should be bold.


You can determine the level of acidity in wine by assessing the effect on salivation. The next time you taste white wine, tilt your head forward and down with your lips closed to ascertain how much saliva builds up in your mouth. Acidity in wine is detected towards the back and at the sides of your tongue. Acidity in wine pairs well with fatty or oily foods, as it has a palate-cleansing ‘cutting through’ effect, which counteracts the richness of the food. Note that acidity in food reduces the effect of acidity in wine.


This an incredibly objective aspect of wine. You may have a dry aromatic wine offering flavours of ripe peaches and apricots, which in our minds resembles sweetness, yet it is still a dry wine based on actual residual sugar. The sweetness level in wine is detected at the very tip of your tongue.

Sweet food reduces the sweetness in wine, so the sweetness in wine should either be equal or preferably a little higher than that of the dish. Sweetness in wine is also a fantastic complement to salty food, so a sweet wine works with blue cheese. Try Sauternes with Roquefort or foie gras.

Other characteristics

Be aware that the bitterness in food increases the bitterness in wine. Also, heat generated from chilli can increase the perception of bitterness, astringency and acidity - and you will also feel the heat from the alcohol causing a slight burn.

Red wine with fish?

We have had many successful red wine pairings with seafood. There are numerous low tannin light bodied reds available. The reason those reds have a lighter body and lighter tannic structure is because the actual skin of the grape is much thinner than others. For example, Gamay and Pinot Noir will be lighter than Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. One of the most sensational combinations is salmon and beetroot with an earthy, spicy Pinot Noir that has good acidity.

Wine and seafood varieties

When choosing wine, you need to consider the different characteristics of fish and shellfish varieties.

Flat white fish: Dover sole, lemon sole, plaice, megrim, witch, turbot, brill, rays

These range in density, but generally have a light flavour. Minerality is key when choosing your matching wine. For the lighter style of flat fish like sole or plaice, pair floral wines that offer orchard fruit (apple/pear). Of course, hints of citrus are an advantage too.

Round white fish: bream, cod, gurnard, haddock, hake, John Dory, ling, monkfish, whiting

These have slightly more flavour than flat white fish, but pair well with similar wines. Wines with hints of citrus and orchard fruit work best.

White fish with slightly oily flesh: grey mullet, red mullet, bass

Wines produced on marl (marine fossil soil), such as Jura wines, complement the subtle earthiness of these fish, but acidity is of the essence here to cut through the oiliness of the fish.

Oily fish: mackerel, sardine, herring, salmon, sea trout

These stronger flavoured fish call for aromatic wines with higher acidity to cut through their oiliness. Alsace wines are good options, especially Riesling. Avoid red wine with tannins as it may cause a metallic reaction.

Cephalopods: squid, octopus, cuttles

These have a delicate flavour and a soft texture. The light, white pepperiness of Grüner Veltliner backed up by the hints of soft stone fruit work particularly well with cephalopods.

Molluscs: clams, razor clams, cockles, mussels, oysters

As these are high in minerals, avoid serving red wines with tannins, as it may cause a metallic reaction. The ultimate pairings include Champagne, Chablis and Muscadet, all of which are crisp, zingy and mineral.

Shellfish: scallops, crab, lobster

These are usually cooked with butter, or have a buttery sauce or dressing, so fuller bodied, buttery wines are an excellent choice. Try a white Burgundy from the Côte de Beaune. Very fresh shellfish has an underlying sweetness, which could be complemented by an off-dry style of wine, or a crisp, aromatic Albariño from Galicia, Spain; Gisborne from Eastland, New Zealand; or Montevideo from Uruguay.

There may be several different fish and shellfish within a dish, plus vegetables, fruit, etc. to consider when you are choosing a wine. As a guideline, try and match the flavour of your wine to the strongest flavour of the dish, but consider how it will pair with the mildest flavour too.

Planning a fish menu

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to cook and even more so when you have constraints on your time, or a party to cater for. Getting everything to balance in terms of flavours, textures and effort involved takes some practice so I’ve decided to give you a few pointers by suggesting five menus for different occasions using the recipes from the book. Scale the quantities up or down, according to the number you are serving, and add your own choice of veg, salad and bread where necessary.

A quick dinner for two

You can rustle this up in less than an hour - perfect for a midweek after-work supper.

Smoked Mackerel & Pickled Vegetable Salad

Haddock Baked in a Bag with Béarnaise Butter

Pear Crumble with Earl Grey Chocolate Sauce

A leisurely lunch for four

An ideal meal to serve when lunch can extend through the afternoon, or supper can go on through the evening, taking time between courses to chat and raise a glass.

Raw Salmon with Vodka, Orange & Horseradish

Soused Gurnard, Red Pepper Ketchup, Rocket & Olive Salad

Lemon Sole, Green Sauce Butter

Rhubarb Sponge, Almond Cream & Lemon Crème Fraîche

A dinner to impress for six or more

For a special occasion, it’s always good to come up with a menu that leaves you little to do at the last minute. This one works a treat.

Crab Scotch Quail’s Eggs with Watercress Mayonnaise

Gin-cured Sea Trout with Apple & Fennel

Dressed Lobster with Herb Mayonnaise

Cod & Ox Cheek Stew

Warm Chocolate Tart ‘Black Pig’

Outdoor summer meal for six or more

As far as I’m concerned, there’s only one way to cook on a hot day - outside on the barbecue. Add a couple of salads, a pudding and a few drinks, relax and enjoy!

Prawn, Chilli & Potato Salad

Monkfish, Cauliflower Pickle, Ginger & Coriander Yoghurt

Mackerel with Barbecue Sauce

Gurnard with Fennel, Gherkin & Olive Salad

Elderflower Cream with Strawberry Sorbet

A family buffet for eight to ten

For a buffet you need dishes that will happily sit on the table for a while, so it’s easier if most of them are served at room temperature. I like to include a couple that can be warmed up easily too.

Prawn Cocktail Quiche

Hot-smoked Salmon Pâté, Whisky Jelly

Jacob’s Favourite Cod’s Roe Dip

Doom Bar Marinated Seafood

Crab & Tomato Salad with Horseradish Dressing

Sardine, Pepper & Shallot Flatbreads

Treacle & Raspberry Tart