Few chefs do seafood as well as Nathan Outlaw, who for almost two decades has cooked “fish on a plate” on the Cornish coast, making use of the county’s fine ingredients without being burdensome or preaching.
In 2020, post-lockdown but with the pandemic squeezing hospitality, Outlaw simplified his flagship two Michelin-star restaurant, reducing the price of the tasting menu to create a more accessible environment. It was a savvy move in a troubled industry.
At the time, Outlaw told me he felt as if “a weight had been lifted off my shoulders”. It wasn’t so much a drastic change as it was a cool reimagining of
what an “inclusive” dining room should look like in an age where money is tight but fish is ever-popular.
Two years on, Outlaw’s New Road, in the very “rah” but still charming Port Isaac, offers a £95 seafood tasting menu. Dishes are entirely dependent on what fishermen in Cornwall land each day, and what the chef and his team consider cooking. Show me food of such a quality for under £100. Sorry, you cannot. Across the road is the more relaxed still Fish Kitchen, where prices are lower still.
A leading food guide in 2009 said the team down there was delivering “discreet but powerful waves”. This is true. There has never been chatter like
that of Rick Stein; Outlaw appears on TV but only ever fleetingly, really.
There should be some spotlight in 2022. Outlaw is soon to launch a new
guesthouse, which will combine two-night stays by the seaside with successive dinners at his restaurants. He told me there will be afternoon teas and cooked breakfasts laid on too as part of any “package”.
Then he said the cheapest price would be £600. That’s a serious bargain. Other chefs apparently think he’s a bit bonkers for going in so low. I say more power to him.
So here’s Outlaw’s smoked haddock pancakes. Yes I know Shrove Tuesday has just flown past. But you had ham and cheese, and bananas with Nutella,
didn’t you? Mix it up a bit and use the last of the batter mix cooking this.
SMOKED HADDOCK, POTATO PANCAKES AND MUSTARD CRÈME FRAÎCHE
4 smoked haddock portions, about 120g each, skinned
1 litre whole milk
2 bay leaves
A pinch of salt
For the potato pancakes:
100g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
300g cold mashed potato (about 2 large cooked potatoes)
150ml whole-milk yoghurt
2 large free-range eggs, plus 1 extra egg yolk
2 tbsp chopped tarragon
Olive oil for cooking
For the crème fraîche:
300g crème fraîche
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
To make the batter for the potato pancakes, sift the flour and baking powder together into a bowl, then mix in the mashed potato until smoothly combined. In a separate bowl, whisk the yoghurt, eggs and extra yolk together and mix in the chopped tarragon. Add this to the potato mix and whisk until smooth. Set aside.
For the haddock, pour the milk into a pan large enough to hold all the fish and liquid. Add the bay leaves and a good pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer, then take off heat and leave the milk to stand and infuse while you cook the pancakes.
You will need to cook the pancakes in batches. Heat a non-stick frying pan and add a drizzle of olive oil. When it is hot, spoon in tablespoonfuls of the potato batter, leaving space in between them. Cook for 1 minute until golden on the underside, then turn the pancakes over and cook for another 1–2 minutes. Pile them up on a warmed plate and keep warm while you cook the rest of the batter.
Once all pancakes are cooked, carefully place the haddock in the infused milk and slowly bring back to a simmer. Poach gently for 3 minutes. Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix the crème fraîche with the mustard and season with salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, carefully lift the haddock out of the milk and drain on kitchen paper. Divide the pancakes between 4 warmed plates and add the smoked haddock. Serve the mustard crème fraîche on the side.