Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Fish Restaurants And Mayonnaise

I am glad that Nathan Outlaw has been awarded a second star in the Michelin Great Britain and Ireland Guide 2011. The former Rick Stein acolyte has worked hard for his success in his small kitchen in Rock, Cornwall.

His passion for cooking is legendary among chefs in the West Country. When I was down there, his friends told how he loved food so much he would get up early on his one day off a week just to cook them a fancy lunch, and often take hours doing it.

The other reason I’m pleased is because he has been recognised for his handling of simple dishes like cod with tartare sauce and clams. So many Michelin restaurants feel they have to crowd the plate with complex ingredients and techniques that it is good to see the judges hailing a chef who has confidence in keeping dishes simple and tasty.

Derek Bulmer, who helped edit the guide, said: “He has a particular flair with fish. He doesn’t overcomplicate. He knows when a dish is done.”

The only shame is Outlaw’s small restaurant at St Enodoc Hotel is the only Michelin-starred fish restaurant in Britain – which is a pretty poor show for a land surrounded by water and some of the world’s best seafood.

With my love of seafood, and hope of one day owning a fish restaurant near the sea, Outlaw’s kitchen is a place I’d love to cook in. But maybe that will just be a dream. In the mean-time, I’m still getting my knife skills up to speed before my cheffing stint in California. I’ve spent a couple of days working at a restaurant in land-locked Buckinghamshire.

It’s a far cry from St Enodoc, and there are no beautiful harbour views, but the fish arrives fresh from Cornwall and the dishes are simple and delicious. It reminds me of some of the eateries you get in places like Lagos or Le Touquet for some reason.

Perhaps it is the mayonnaise? Every decent fish restaurant should serve an unctuous mayonnaise, even if it is just to dip prawns in or smear over a fruits de mers. The mayonnaise I’ve been making there takes me straight back to summers in France every time I try it.

I know there are loads of well-worn recipes for how to make it, but I thought I’d share it anyway. In fact, there seem to be as many recipes for mayonnaise as there are theories on where the name came from.

Some believe it was created when the Duke of Richelieu took Port Mahon on Minorca in 1756, and named mahonnaise. But for my money, that seems pretty lame. I can’t believe that the skilled chefs who worked in mediaeval courts hadn’t come up with a simple emulsion of egg yolk and oil before that.

Others think it comes from the French verb manier (to stir), or from the Old French word moyeu, meaning egg yolk. Some believe it was invented in the town of Bayonne, and originally known as bayonnaise sauce. I don’t know. Perhaps the chef who invented it had a cold at the time?

Anyway, here’s my method. It’s a belter...


5 eggs
Salt and white pepper
1 heaped tsp English mustard
1 tsp paprika
1.5 pints vegetable oil

Take the eggs out of the fridge about an hour before you make it. Break four egg yolks into a soup bowl containing the mustard and leave for ten minutes. Put one whole egg into a mixing bowl and beat with an electric hand whisk, on its lowest setting. Add the yolks, mustard, paprika and seasoning until you’ve got a bright yellow custard.

Then slowly trickle in the oil – it’s essential you do this slowly or it may split - until you’ve got a thick, light-yellow mayonnaise. The amount of oil varies, and depends on the size of the eggs etc, so you may need no more than a pint.

By adding certain ingredients like anchovy, watercress, caviar, garlic, capers etc. you can make sauces like remoulade, maltaise, Cambridge etc. Our place is very simple – we use tartare sauce for fish, and marie-rose for crab and prawn cocktails and smoked salmon cornucopias. The recipes are here:

Tartare sauce

There is a lot of debate in professional kitchens about what should go into tartare sauce, and I once fell out with a chef over it in spectacular fashion, but this recipe is a good one.

1 bowl of mayonnaise (using five eggs as above)
250g large gherkins, drained
1/2 large Spanish onion
salt and black pepper
2 tbsps chopped chives
2 spring onions, finely chopped
2 hard-boiled egg yolks

Make the mayonnaise as above. Chop the gherkins and onion finely, and then add with the rest of the ingredients. Season to taste.

Marie-rose sauce

1 bowl of mayonnaise (as above)
3 tbsps tomato ketchup
½ tbsp Worcester sauce
1 tbsp brandy
1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
Dash of Tabasco
Sprinkle of paprika to serve

Add all the ingredients, mix well and chill. The dish can be improved by rubbing a spoon with a halved piece of garlic and then stirring the sauce with it.


Ada W said...

Great recipes. Especially like the prawn cocktail sauce one. Making me hungry!

Zeren Wilson said...

(Via Twitter)

Good to Mayo lore laid out straight. Tartare & Marie Rose a bonus. Worth practicing innit?!

The St John Bread & Wine mayo with their crab is savage. In a good way. Olive oil stylee though....

NorthernSnippet said...

(Via Twitter)

Liked that you made your mayo with veg oil BTW. I think people are afraid to admit they are using such a basic ingredient as veg oil. Not glam enough.

ChefAlex said...

Tartar sauce was originally invented to whiten teeth.

Matt Harrington said...

For the Marie-Rose sauce, I always add a little mustard powder but have never tried the brandy - apart from that they are identical! I learnt mine years ago from some ancient Maitre'd ooop north! I'll try your version next time! Thanks

Lennie Nash said...

Dear Matt,

I like the sound of the mustard powder. One of my favourite ingredients. I'm going to try it. The brandy idea came from an old Spanish chef. Sounds a bit overpowering but it works nicely!