Genevieve Taylor Q&A

Live-fire expert Genevieve Taylor knows how to cook over a flame. And in her latest book she address one of the ingredients that can sometimes cause nervousness on a BBQ - cooking fish. 

Scorched by Genevieve Taylor (Quadrille, £25), Photography by Jason Ingram

TRY: Genevieve's recipe for Turbot with a Sherry Vinaigrette Baste & Monkfish Sumac Skewers with Warm Chickpea Purée, Spinach and Burnt Lemon!

What’s your favourite kitchen tool - do you go in for gadgetry?

I’m not a big one for gadgets and gizmo’s, and I definitely like to keep my fire cooking analogue. That’s the joy in it for me - just me, the food, the fire, taking things back to simple food cooked beautifully.

That said, through two years of testing recipes for the new book, I found that Weber grill trays are the best surface for cooking fish on so it doesn’t stick.

A temperature probe, like a Thermapen is invaluable when you are cooking any sort of protein.

And I couldn’t live without my treasured knife. I brought it from an artisan maker, Fingal Ferguson, and it’s just perfectly weighted to me and brings me joy with every slice.

How do you balance tradition and innovation in your cooking?

I think cooking with fire is pretty liberating because in the UK we don’t have a big tradition of it in modern history, so in a sense I can simply cook what I like when I like.

What I love to do is show people that there doesn’t need to be ‘BBQ food’ its simply food that you cooked over fire. E

VERYTHING can be cooked over fire, its the original cooking tool and when I teach classes at the Bristol Fire School we cook everything from pies to cakes to pavlovas to crackers to curries, stews and sauces. Alongside slow smoked meat and grilled fish of course!

It’s not innovation as such but it can be truly eye opening if you are a beginner in cooking with fire.

Where do you find inspiration?

I have spent a lifetime travelling the world both for work and play and like a culinary magpie I gather flavours and ideas from everywhere I go.

I particularly enjoy the zingy freshness of South East Asian cooking and the intense spices in the food from the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. The world is a huge and exciting place and there are so many more countries I want to explore - I have never been to South America for example. That has to change soon!

What new tips, tricks or ideas have you learned while writing the book?

I learnt SO MUCH. Writing a book is always a deep dive for me. I’m a huge science geek and my background is in biology, specifically marine biology, so I really wanted to focus on how fish is different to meat and why that means we need to cook it differently.

Fish is a delicate thing, made up of short protein blocks weakly connected together, meaning it cooks very fast and is prone to sticking and falling apart. There are 3 key things we can do to help, and they really do help.

Firstly, dry skin is essential so remove your fish from its packing a few hours before you want to cook it and rest it on a rack over a tray in the fridge so it can air dry.

Secondly, a little layer of oil over the skin - you don’t need much - followed by a good sprinkle of salt flakes, like Maldon, will give you a physical barrier between fish and grill surface to protect it from sticking

Lastly, a super hot grill surface is essential - I like to heat my grill tray over the grill bars until its sizzling hot and only then to I put the fish on, oiled and salted skin side down.

What do you cook, when you’re cooking for yourself?

Often I don’t actually cook at all. I cook so much day to day, both for work and also for friends (I’m such a feeder!) that when I’m on my own and at liberty to do what I like it would normally just be a plate of cheese and crackers on the sofa with a glass of red wine.

What ingredients are always stocked in your pantry? 5-6 please.

ALWAYS: garlic, olive oil, lemons, cumin, chilli, eggs

What are the components of a fantastic meal for you?

Simple dishes using the best ingredients, cooked and eaten outside (hopefully in the sunshine!) surrounded by my closest friends, the music I love and plenty of wine. The food I cook is always omnivorous, a little good meat or fish, plenty of incredible vegetables, lots of herbs and spices.

Can you tell me about a particularly memorable meal you have had and what made it so special?

Many years ago my husband and I were in Tobago on honeymoon, staying at a rough and ready beach shack with no windows.

We saw a fisherman pulling his boat up onto the shore and went to ask if we could buy some fish. He cut us fat, fat slices off a HUGE tuna he had just caught.

We lit a driftwood fire, grabbed some cold beers and a bag of chips from the bar at the back of the beach, and cooked a simple supper from the freshest fish I have ever eaten. Everything about it still makes me smile over two decades later.

What’s the one dish to make anyone fall in love with your new book?

This is such a difficult question to answer, a bit like asking me who my favourite child is! I like them all, it just depends what I feel like eating. One of the things I hope people learn from the book is pretty much any fish goes with pretty much any sauce or butter.

So my best advice is to think about you feel like eating - do you want a spicy or herby or citrusy vibe? Then take that thought to the fishmonger and ask what’s the freshest most most sustainable thing on the counter. Fish cooking really is super adaptable and can transport you easily to all four corners of the globe.

What will you be cooking next?

I doing a shoot for Maldon in a couple of days and have just taken delivery of four of the fattest most beautiful ex-dairy rib eye steaks from my pal Olly at Meatmatters. I don’t eat steak too often, it’s a very occasional treat, but when I do I buy the best I can and relish it with gusto.


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