Nathan Outlaw: 'I can't sit in a dining-room with a hush-hush atmosphere'


My earliest food memory... My mum's trifle, which we used to have on a Sunday night. I do love my sweet things – as you could probably tell by looking at me! – and it holds great memories of spending time with the family. She used to make it with sliced Swiss roll and finish it off with hundreds and thousands: no trifle is complete without them.

My store-cupboard essentials... Marmite, peanut butter and some Davidstow cheddar, which is local to us, because I'm a cheese-on-toast freak. If I was single and didn't have kids, that would be about it in my cupboard. Also we don't eat a lot of butter at home so we have loads of different oils and vinegars: apple balsamic is a recent favourite.

My top cookbook... I'm a bit of an anorak when it comes to cookbooks – there are 300 or 400 in my front-room – but I have two favourites: Nose to Tail Eating: A Kind of British Cooking (Bloomsbury, £16.99) by Fergus Henderson from St John – I love the way it's written and laid out; and Rick Stein's English Seafood Cookery (Penguin, £8.99), which was his first book, published in 1988, back when he was Richard Stein. I worked for Rick for two years in the late 1990s, and I learnt more then than at any other point in my career.

The kitchen appliance I can't live without... At home, it's one of those pan strainers for straining pasta and vegetables. It's like an arched spatula with holes in and you put it on the lip of the pan and it stops you burning yourself.

My culinary tip... Stick to what you know you're good at. The biggest mistake you can make when having people round for dinner is trying to do too many things or experimenting and getting in a pickle. Cooking should never be about getting stressed out, and if lasagne's your forte, why not make that every time?

My top table... I really like Mark Hix's Oyster & Chop House in London and the Seahorse in Dartmouth. The Oyster & Chop House is classic British cuisine, whereas the Seahorse is a bit more diverse – the chef there, Mitch Tonks, takes inspiration from his travels in Spain and Italy and Morocco – but they both do really nice, simple dishes: I hate it when you look at a menu and it's all a blur because there's so much information. I also like that they both have fun, bustling atmospheres. I can't sit in a dining-room which is all hush-hush.

My dream dining companion... Dave Grohl. I'm a big Foo Fighters fan and I think he'd be great fun, though it would probably end up in a bit of a mess.

My desert island dish... Fish pie, as I could probably catch the fish myself then make it. There are three keys to a good fish pie: boiled eggs, a good ratio of smoked fish, and cheese in the mash.

My guilty pleasure... Tinned hotdogs, with plain white bread. Every so often, I've just got to have them but afterwards I always think, "Why?"

My pet hate... Crushed potatoes. They are a lazy man's mash, and I especially hate them if the skins are left on. I also hate people who bang on about always using fresh fish, and you shouldn't use frozen. There's nothing wrong with frozen fish; some fish, such as monkfish and cod, benefit from freezing, as it breaks them down and tenderises them. Every fish is different: I was talking to an old fisherman the other day, and he said his wife would get a piece of Dover sole and hang it in the garden for a few days like a piece of game.

My tipple of choice... Gin and bitter lemon, which is quite old-lady-like. I'm going through a gin phase at the moment; my dad used to drink it a lot when I was a kid, but it's only recently that I've developed a taste for juniper.

Chef Nathan Outlaw runs Restaurant Nathan Outlaw at the St Enodoc Hotel in Rock, Cornwall (nathan-outlaw.com). Last month, it was awarded two Michelin stars

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