Fantastic fish recipes for outdoor cooks

PUBLISHED: 14:08 02 July 2020

Plank grilled Devon sea trout cooked by Devon barbecue expert Marcus Bawdon. Photo: Marcus Bawdon

Plank grilled Devon sea trout cooked by Devon barbecue expert Marcus Bawdon. Photo: Marcus Bawdon

. Photo: Marcus Bawdon

Two of Devon’s top outdoor cooking experts share fabulous fish recipes

David Jones from Devon's Manna From Devon outdoor cooking school. Photo: Nick HookDavid Jones from Devon's Manna From Devon outdoor cooking school. Photo: Nick Hook

It may look simple, but when it comes to outdoor cooking, it pays to seek some advice and pick up a few tips and none are better at both than Marcus Bawdon and David Jones.

Marcus is a leader in the UK barbecue scene; he’s the founder of Country Wood Smoke , an online resource for recipes and techniques which draws on inspiration from across the globe. He is passionate about cooking on fire and, alongside a YouTube channel and Facebook group, he also launched BBQ Magazine.

David and his wife Holly run Manna from Devon cookery school in Kingswear and are long-standing champions of wood-fired cookery. Drawing on their travel adventures they too source recipes from around the world; through workshops and their YouTube channel they show how anything and everything, from breakfast to dinner, can be cooked with fire.

However you decided to cook outside, good preparation is key to it being a success, says David. “The wood, the charcoal and the crockery should all be checked and ready. Make any salads in advance; gather together the condiments; chill the beers and wine and make up flasks of cordial.”

Outdoor cooking enthusiast Marcus Bowdon from Devon. Photo: Nick HookOutdoor cooking enthusiast Marcus Bowdon from Devon. Photo: Nick Hook

You should always marinate meats and prepare any vegetables to be cooked in advance, he says, so all that is left to do outside is the actual cooking.

If you are planning on eating outdoors a lot then think about some cover, suggests David.

“If your cooking space and outdoor eating area are under cover they’ll get used at least twice as much because you won’t be put off by a light shower. We’d all love to have a dedicated, purpose built outdoor cooking and entertaining space but even a couple of good quality pop-up gazebos will save your garden party. It’ll also means the kids can spend lots more time outdoors and get lots more fresh air.”

It pays to buy the best quality meat you can afford, says Marcus, adding that cheaper cuts can work really well for the barbecue. Likewise, he’d urge you to invest in high quality charcoal. “Think of it as an ingredient in itself,” he says. “You don’t need to use much, a small amount of good quality charcoal can go a long way.”

Hake in spiced coconut sauce with mustard seed and curry leaf tadka, cooked by David Jones in a wood-fired oven. Photo: Nick HookHake in spiced coconut sauce with mustard seed and curry leaf tadka, cooked by David Jones in a wood-fired oven. Photo: Nick Hook

However, he says: “Even if you’re cooking with gas, you can pop a chunk of smoking wood near the gas burners to add a smoky flavour.”

Marcus also suggests 2-zone grilling. This means separating your grill into sections, pulling the coals into one area - he suggests a third of the available space. This allows one area for searing heat and the other can be used for slower cooking. “If you use the barbecue lid, you can turn one area of the grill into a smoky oven and cook large bits of meat slowly without burning.”

Both Marcus and David suggest using a digital thermometer to check the temperature of meat for absolute accuracy. And it will help make you more confident, says Marcus. It’s worth remembering carryover too, he says. “Most meat carries on cooking and going up a few degrees when you take it off the barbecue. Allow for this by taking meat off a few degrees before your target temperature.”

“A cool box with ice packs will keep your meat chilled and safe until it goes in the oven or hits the grill,” says David.

Plank grilled Devon sea trout cooked by Devon barbecue expert Marcus Bawdon. Photo: Marcus BawdonPlank grilled Devon sea trout cooked by Devon barbecue expert Marcus Bawdon. Photo: Marcus Bawdon

It’s also important to give barbecue grills, cooking tools, metal skewers and all other cooking equipment a thorough clean.

“That old grease from your previous session is a haven for bacteria,” he says. “And watch out for cross contamination. The tongs you use to handle raw sausages before they go into the wood-fired oven should not be used to put them onto a plate when they come out.”

He suggests keeping a bowl of hot soapy water and some antibacterial soap to hand, making sure it’s changed regularly. “We have a big Thermos with a pump action tap to keep hot water in.”

And keep everything away from any vegetation - just in case things get a bit out of hand. “Have a bucket of water and/or a fire extinguisher to hand and be mindful of the wind carrying sparks, especially in hot, dry weather,” he says.

Finally, Marcus says: “Keep well hydrated and always have a cold drink to hand - barbecuing is hot work...!”

Barbecuing should be about trying new recipes, using different ingredients and techniques, as well as having fun, says Marcus, and David agrees.

“Most of us like a burger and a sausage from time to time but with a bit of planning your outdoor eating can go to the next level and beyond.”

For recipe ideas for wood fired ovens check Manna from Devon’s YouTube channel mannafromdevonwoodfiredcookingschool . Classes are also available.

Marcus has many barbecue and grill ideas on his website or through his Facebook and YouTube sites.

The River Cottage website is another good source, recommended by David.

For the kit, David suggests Big Fire at Dartington, which stocks authentic kadai firebowls as well as lots of outdoor cooking equipment. If you are interested in a wood-fired oven he’d recommend the Morso Outdoor Living range at Hearth and Cook .

Hotsmoked in Tiverton is a good supplier of everything you need for smoking and barbecuing.

Pandemic precautions

Even though being in the garden is a safer option than dining inside, it’s worth remaining cautious in our post-lockdown days.

David has some advice.

1 Sharing things around should be kept to a minimum - so bring your own drinks might be a good idea.

2 Having one well-sanitised person portioning plates of food will be better than letting everyone help themselves from a buffet.

3 Arrange seating in advance so that everyone keeps their distance from each other.

4 Have plenty of hand sanitiser for everyone to use - and keep the Twister game for another time!

Try these great fish recipes, perfect for outdoor cooking

Plank grilled Devon sea trout by Marcus Bawdon.

We are blessed with the quality of seafood along our beautiful Devon coastline, and the maritime larder is especially full at this time of year, just in time for when most people are firing up their barbecues. But to be frank most people get very scared of putting seafood on their grill, nightmares of fish sticking to the grates, the delicate fish flaking and falling apart into a mess, hacking at it with a spatula is never good.

But seafood from the barbecue is so good. Wisps of smoke adding so much flavour to the fish. So how to go about barbecuing some fish without any of the palaver...

You could wrap the fish in foil, which would be ok, but you’d miss the smoky flavour that is the best thing about cooking on the barbecue.

One of the ways I best enjoy cooking delicate fish such as this super fresh Devon-caught sea trout is to place the fish or fillet onto a plank of wood. These can be picked up online or from a sawmill if you have one local to you. Cedar is traditional, but oak, hardwoods such as ash, beech or birch work well, or even fruitwoods such as cherry. Get your plank soaking wet, and place a few slices of lemon, and some fresh herbs, I went for marjoram onto the plank, then pop the fish on top.

Season the fish with sea salt and coarse black pepper, and place a few slices of lemon on top, and stuff the fish with herbs and lemon.

Place the plank on your barbecue with a moderate heat of 180c, Cook for around 30 mins until the fish reaches 55c, keep an eye out on the plank so that it doesn’t catch fire - lower the heat or move the plank away from the direct heat a little if it does, or you can damp down with a little more water.

Enjoy with a nice green salad and some new potatoes.

Hake in spiced coconut sauce with mustard seed and curry leaf tadka by David Jones.

On our travels in India we saw a lot of cooking being done over fire outdoors. Breads, veggies, meat and fish were all cooked outdoors so we now love cooking Indian food in the wood fired ovens at home. The smokiness the food picks up from the oven goes really well with the spices and it’s a good contrast to this sweet and mild coconut sauce.

Serves 4


1 tbsp coriander seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

8 dried red Kashmiri chillies

3 cloves

2 star anise

1 tsp ground turmeric

2 tbsp sunflower oil

1 large red onion, peeled and very finely chopped

2 large ripe tomatoes

400ml coconut milk

3 fresh green chillies

600g hake fillet, skinned and cut into 2.5cm cubes

10 dried curry leaves

1 tbsp brown mustard seeds

Salt and pepper

Cook this dish in a fairly hot oven, about 275°c – 300°c. A small fire burning throughout will be necessary.


1. Heat a frying pan in the oven and dry fry the coriander, cumin, Kashmiri chillies, cloves and star anise until they start smelling aromatic. Take them out of the pan and grind them to a powder in a pestle and mortar or an electric blender. Stir in the ground turmeric.

2. Heat a large pan in the oven and when it’s hot add half the oil. Add the red onion with a good pinch of salt and pepper and soften in the oven for 3-4 minutes. Stir frequently.

3. While the onion is cooking, quarter the tomatoes and take out the seeds. Whizz to a pulp with an electric hand blender or chop very finely with a sharp knife.

4. Stir the ground spice mixture into the softened onions and cook in the oven for a minute or so until the mixture starts to smell fragrant.

5. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for another minute before adding the coconut milk and the green chillies. Bring to the boil in the oven, stirring from time to time, and reduce the amount of liquid by one third.

6. Add the cubed hake (you can use other fish such as monkfish, salmon, cod, pollack, prawns...we just love hake!) and put the pan back in the oven to cook the fish; this will take about 4-5 minutes.

7. While the fish is cooking, heat the rest of the oil in a small frying pan and when it’s hot, add the mustard seeds and curry leaves. Put the pan back in the oven and when the spices start to pop, take the pan out of the oven and spoon over the hake and the coconut sauce.

8. Serve the spiced hake and sauce with some plain rice and a squeeze of lime juice.

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