Chowder is a dish that I personally feel doesn’t get enough attention in the UK. We have such amazing fish which is so accessible and so it’s always baffled me why it doesn’t seem to appear in any recipe books, nor on many restaurant menus. The first haddock chowder I ever had was at the café I used to work at, and it instantly became a favourite of mine. There’s something so delicious about the fusion of fish and creams, with lovely chunks of potatoes scattered throughout to add serious heartiness. This dish will brighten the coldest and darkest of evenings!
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Appox. 500G Smoked Haddock, it doesn’t matter if you have slightly more or less
2 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves
2 white onions, finely chopped
1 medium sized carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 leek, finely sliced
2 celery sticks, finely sliced
800G Potatoes, peeled and diced
2 tbsp salt
5 or 6 black peppercorns
2 tsp fresh thyme, if you don’t have fresh then use ½ tsp of dried (but fresh is much better)
300mls whole milk
300mls double cream
1 tsp white wine vinegar
A few grates of fresh nutmeg
10G Parsley for garnishing
A pinch of sumac
A few drops of Tabasco or any other hot sauce
First prepare all your vegetables. Chop your onions, garlic, carrots, celery and potatoes. This is the most time-consuming part of the whole recipe so be patient, once you’ve finished this part it all comes together extremely quickly.
In the meantime, boil some water (enough to just submerge the haddock) and lay your haddock into a pot. Throw some salt and over the haddock and add the bay leaves. Pour the boiling water over. Put on a medium heat for 2 mins and cover with a lid. Turn the heat off but leaved covered for another 5.
Drain the water (reserve it, don’t throw it down the sink!) the haddock has been poaching in. Put the haddock onto a plate and let cool before you flake it into little chunks.
Add the olive oil and your butter to a large pot and warm until the butter is melted. Add the onions, garlic, celery, carrot, leek and potatoes and a few peppercorns to the pot – if you don’t like getting the odd whole peppercorn then grind it in. Fry over a high heat until they all begin to soften up – ensure you keep stirring otherwise the vegetables on the bottom will not only cook faster than those on the top but may also burn!
Add the thyme and cook for another minute before adding the reserved liquid you cooked the haddock in. Reduce the heat to a light simmer and cook for approx. 10 minutes or until your potatoes have softened.
Take half of what’s in the pot and blitz so you essentially have a soup base. If you don’t have a blender then you can use an immersion blender in the pot, or just mash some of the mix up with a fork!
Add your milk and cream followed by the haddock and sweetcorn, a few grates of nutmeg and your white wine vinegar. Cook for a minute on a low heat to let it all infuse. If you want to thicken it up a little, then just take a little corn starch and mix with some cold tap water before adding. Check seasoning and if in doubt add a few more pinches of salt. Keep tasting until you feel the intensity of each flavour being bought out, don’t be shy with your salt!
Serve topped with chopped parsley, a few drops of Tabasco (if you don’t like hot sauce then a little squeeze of lemon), some sumac and crusty bread.
Acidity is a key element to mastery in cookery. It helps to balance richness and cleanse the palette. For example, in this dish after you get the creaminess of the sauce, and the rich, smokey haddock flavour, the white wine vinegar and hot sauce (or lemon juice) will help cleanse and freshen the palette after each mouthful! Bear this in mind next time you are cooking something to try and incorporate an element of acid if it may be missing!
Onion, Celery and Carrot make up the base of many dishes and when done together are known as Mirepoix (also the holy trinity in cooking). Most soup’s and broths use this base so if you want to try and make a recipe yourself that’s soupy then this is a fantastic place to build from! The term Mirepoix interestingly derives from an old French aristocrat, Gaston de Levis (1699-1757) – also known as the Duke of Mirepoix. One of the duke’s chefs established this mix of vegetables, and so called it ‘Mirepoix’ in honour of the Duke. Unfortunately, the Duke himself was said to have been an incompetent and mediocre individual, and only owed his vast fortune and influence to the affections King Louis XV felt towards his wife… At least he had a claim to fame over his sauce.