Saturday 6 September 2014

Fish chowder and beating the end-of-summer blues ...

At the risk of being boring - I know I've mentioned it before -  I'm really not ready to let go of summer just yet. Back beneath a leaden sky in London I'm missing the warm Catalan sun, our sandy beach and the wonderful mariscos, fresh seafood, landed off the fishing boats in our little harbour back in Sant Feliu, where I'm sure the sun is still shining and the sky is still a deep cerulean blue.

As a way of beating the end-of-summer blues I've turned to comfort food. And for me comfort food doesn't gets any more comforting than the smoky, creamy taste of a good fish chowder.  My favourite food in all the world is smoked fish. I could happily eat kippers every day of my life ...  which is probably something to do with my being Irish. And, as it happens, one of the things I miss when we're in Spain is good smoked fish. Maybe up in Galicia, where they're all really Celtic rather than Latin, they do our smoked fish thing, but in the rest of Spain you can pretty much forget it. There's the odd packet of thinly sliced, smoked salmon in the Mercadona chiller cabinets, but that's it.

So yesterday I made a great big pot of chowder, which was all steaming and ready to slurp when Emi got back from swim club. D-E-L-I-S-H! Bacon-fish soup, the young man hollered as he came through the door. I should add, by way of explanation, that we are also enthusiastic consumers of smoked streaky bacon over here at Talk-A-Lot-Towers, hence bacon-fish is a (not-so-short) shorthand for smoked fish.

Anyway I'm digressing. Shall I tell you how I make this creamy ambrosia of mine?

Ingredients (for 4 servings)

400 g of smoked white fish fillets. You can use any chunky white fish: haddock, pollock, cod, whatever you can find. Some people prefer to use un-dyed fillets as they look prettier in the creamy chowder, but I'm not fussy on that point.
3 or 4 bay leaves
200 ml milk 
300 ml of double cream (to make this feel less of an artery-clogging, cholesterol-fest I use the low-fat Elmlea double cream - I don't know how they deliver on that, and I wouldn't pour it over my strawberries, but it tastes just fine when you're cooking)
700 ml fish stock
1 teaspoonful of cumin seed
1 teaspoonful of peppercorns
2 large leeks washed and finely chopped
4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced into small cubes
2 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
200 g sweetcorn (off the cob)
Dollop of butter and olive oil for cooking

What to do: 

  1. Place the fish fillets in a large saucepan (I use a big reducing pan) with the fish stock, the bay leaves and the pepper corns and bring to a gentle simmer. Poach gently for several minutes until your fish starts to flake in the chunkiest parts of the fillet.
  2. Remove from the heat, and leave your fillets on one side. Strain the stock to remove the bay leaves and the pepper corns.
  3. Melt the butter and olive oil in a pan and sweat the finely chopped leeks with the cumin seed until they are soft but not browned. 
  4. Add the cubed potato, stir everything around and leave to sweat for another minute or two, but, as before, don't let anything brown. 
  5. Season and add the stock. Stir everything, cover with the lid and bring to a gentle simmer. Leave to cook gently until the potato is almost cooked.
  6. Add the carrot and cook for another couple of minutes.
  7. Using a fork break up the fillets of fish into flakes.
  8. Add the milk, the cream and the flaked fish to the pan. Stir gently, and heat everything through. Serve hot with crusty bread.

Mmmmm ... maybe the autumn won't be so bad after all ... .

All the best for now,

Bonny x


  1. I like your way of beating the winter blues! The summer where I live can sometimes be a bit too hot so a bit of cold weather is a welcome relief - BUT - it has gone on long enough this year and I am eagerly waiting for some really nice warm weather. The fishing boat and harbour look beautiful.

    1. Thank you, Mick. I know that feeling. Every year when the daffodils and spring flowers appear I feel a huge wave of relief that we've made it through the winter and have warmer, sunnier days to look forward to. Enjoy! Bonny

  2. Sounds yummy and love the boat photo ~ Catalan sounds attractive and inviting!

    artmusedog and carol (A Creative Harbor)

    1. Thank you, Carol. Yes, Catalan is a very attractive language. They say it's the closest living language to the ancient language of the Cathars. All the best and thanks for dropping by, Bonny

  3. Very tasty, especially since I was just off to our local fish shop to get some Plaice caught off our local beaches. I may just add some white smoked Haddock to the order now.

    You perhaps know that Menorcans speak a version of Catalan? We go to Menorca each May.
    It's a beautiful island.

    1. Your local fish shop sounds amazing. Yes, that's right, they speak Menorquí, a dialect of Catalan, which they tell me borrows some of its words from English. It must be a lovely place to visit. All the best and thanks for stopping by, Bonny