Back of the net

Mark Hix heads down to the seaside in Dorset to cook up freshly caught fish on his barbecue for a summer's feast. Photographs by Jason Lowe
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The Independent Online

When I'm down at Charmouth in Dorset I can't think of anything better than inviting friends over for a fish barbecue, particularly if I've had a successful haul from my lobster pots. I bought a Bernito wood-fired oven last year and it's now firmly installed in my garden alongside my barbecue. It works a treat with fish and lobsters, cooking them in no time and imparting that lovely wood-fired flavour.

I've just heard about a new scheme started by the Cornish Fishmonger (, which has teamed up with the National Lobster Hatchery to launch "buy one, stock one" to replenish Cornish lobster stocks.

The National Lobster Hatchery works to rear lobsters from larvae to juveniles, when they're released. Fewer than 1 per cent of lobsters survive this phase of growth in the wild. The hatchery's work ensures that more than 40 per cent of its young lobsters survive. sells lobster live or cooked, from £15 per lobster. Barbecuing fish requires some careful attention, so I would recommend keeping half of your barbecue a little cooler with less charcoal, so that the fish doesn't burn and you can control the cooking.

Lobster with Lagavulin butter

Serves 4

A few weeks ago I was invited up to Islay to visit the Lagavulin distillery. We were invited to a seafood lunch at the distillery but somehow we roped ourselves into cooking the seafood feast. Anyway, one of our party suggested doing a whisky butter with the lobster – and delicious it was, too.

2 x 800g-1kg lobsters

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the whisky butter:

3 large shallots, peeled, halved and chopped

100ml fish stock

1tbsp cider vinegar

1tbsp double cream

150g cold unsalted butter, diced

2tbsp chopped chives

2 measures of whisky

Salt and freshly ground white pepper

Put the lobsters in the freezer for an hour to put them to sleep. To make the whisky butter, put the shallots in a saucepan with the fish stock and cider vinegar and simmer until you have less than a tablespoon in the pan.

Add the double cream, bring to the boil then whisk in the butter to create a smooth sauce. Whisk in enough whisky to taste, then stir in the chives and season. Cover the pan with cling film. With a heavy sharp knife, cut the lobsters in half by pushing the point of the knife through the head, then pushing with the palm of your hand through the shell. Crack the claws with the back of a knife so the heat can get into the claw. Season the lobster flesh and cook flesh side down first for about five to six minutes on each side. Serve with the sauce poured over or separately.

Oysters with chilli and shallots

Serves 4

Occasionally, we come across these enormous oysters which are far too big to eat raw but perfect for cooking. They work a treat on the barbecue because they just lightly steam themselves open.

4 jumbo oysters, or 8 or 12 smaller ones

For the sauce:

2 large shallots, peeled and finely chopped

2 medium red chillies, finely chopped

1tbsp white wine vinegar

80g cold butter, diced

1tbsp chopped coriander

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

First make the sauce. Melt a little of the butter in a pan and gently cook the shallots and chilli for a minute. Add the vinegar and reduce completely, then remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the rest of the butter until emulsified. Stir in the coriander and season to taste. Cover the pan with cling film and keep in a warm place while the oysters are cooking.

Place the oysters on a medium-hot section of the barbecue with the flat shell facing up for about five minutes, then remove from the heat and prize the flat top shell off with a knife. The oyster should be gently steamed and just cooked, if not, replace the flat shell and continue cooking for a couple more minutes. To serve, simply spoon the sauce over the oyster.

Mackerel teriyaki

Serves 4

Mackerel are one of my favourite fish – not only are they easy to catch but they are a pleasure to cook with in the kitchen and that delicious, slightly oily flesh tastes like no other fish. They work a treat on the barbecue and make for great outdoor eating. I've used a good-quality teriyaki sauce here from a Japanese supermarket. This is perfect because you are only giving the fish a brush while it is cooking and flavouring the skin. You can serve this with a salad.

4 large bamboo skewers soaked in water for 3-4 hours (to prevent burning), or metal skewers

4 medium-size mackerel, filleted and boned

A pinch of sea salt

80-100g ginger, scraped

4tbsp teriyaki sauce

Thread the mackerel fillets on to bamboo skewers and lightly season with sea salt. Finely grate the ginger to a purée; you can also chop over it afterwards with a knife if you wish. Cook the mackerel on a medium heat of a barbecue, skin-side down first for a minute on each side twice and brushing it with teriyaki sauce as it is cooking. Serve with the ginger purée.

Fisherman's spelt

Serves 4

Barbecues aren't just for grilling, particularly if you have one of those fancy numbers with a gas burner on the side. If you haven't got one then you need to cook this dish using a cooler section of the barbecue. It's rather like a paella and can be cooked while you are doing starters and then served as a main course. It's a version of the fisherman's rice that you see in Spain and Italy. Use a selection of fish and shellfish, or just stick to shellfish.

120g spelt, soaked in cold water for two hours

1tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion, peeled, halved and finely chopped

1 lobster weighing about 500-600g

200g cleaned squid, cut into rough 2cm squares

8 medium scallops, shucked

200g mussels or clams, cleaned and bearded

1tbsp chopped parsley (stalks reserved for sauce

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the stock:

1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped

6 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved

1tbsp olive oil

1tsp fennel seeds

10 black peppercorns

A good pinch of saffron

1 small 200g can of chopped tomatoes

1.2-1.5 litres fish stock

Put the lobster in the freezer for about an hour and then plunge into boiling salted water and simmer for five minutes. Remove from the water and run under the cold tap for five minutes or so to cool. Remove the tail, halve it down the middle and cut each half in half again. Remove the meat from the claws and legs and put to one side with the tail. Break up the head and claw shells with a rolling pin or back of a heavy knife.

To make the stock, heat the oil in a pan and fry the lobster shells, onion and spices on a medium heat for a few minutes. Add a good knob of butter and add the parsley stalks, then add the tomatoes and stock. Bring to the boil, season and simmer gently for 45 minutes and strain through a fine-meshed sieve, then season to taste.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan and gently cook the onion for three to four minutes on a low heat without colouring, add the drained spelt and stir over the heat for 30 seconds then gradually add the stock in about four stages, stirring every so often and ensuring that each addition is absorbed before adding the next.

When the spelt is almost cooked, stir in all of the fish and parsley (the spelt should be quite wet and soupy at this stage), season, then put a lid on the pan and cook for a couple of minutes or until the mussels open. Serve immediately.

Mark Hix was recently awarded the Evelyn Rose Cookery Journalist of the Year at the Guild of Food Writers Awards