Smoked haddock and shellfish chowder


First published in 2016
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I rarely plan what to buy when I visit my local fishmonger. My purchases are usually inspired by what looks particularly good on the day. This morning there is a bitter wind blowing in from the sea as I join the queue at John's little wooden shop on the seafront. The boats moored on the pebbled shore behind the hut have already delivered the days catch, his slab is laden with an array of bright, glistening fish.

Faced with such bounty, a certain amount of indecision is always inevitable. A bowl of plump king scallops tempt, as do piles of iridescent mussels and clams. John is as patient as ever with my procrastination. The perfect dish springs to mind – a hearty winter chowder. I select a thick fillet of naturally smoked haddock, add a few scallops and a couple of greedy handfuls of the mussels and clams.

A good chowder should be a celebration of the sea – it does not claim to be a frugal dish. Do not be tempted to skip the generous dash of cream to finish. It should be as luxurious as fine cashmere on a chilly day. The chowder will benefit from the flavour imparted by a good quality fish stock, but otherwise water will suffice. Serve in warm, deep bowls with plenty of fresh crusty bread and butter.




Smoked haddock and shellfish chowder

  • 300g of smoked haddock, skinned and cut into 3–4cm cubes
  • 200g of clams, cleaned
  • 200g of mussels, cleaned
  • 3 scallops, large, sliced horizontally into 3 slices (roes removed)
  • 65g of streaky bacon, rind removed and chopped into small pieces
  • 100g of shallots, finely chopped
  • 15g of plain flour
  • 500ml of fish stock, preferably homemade, or good-quality shop-bought. Alternatively, use water
  • 150ml of whole milk
  • bouquet garni, made from 6 parsley stalks, 2 sprigs of thyme and a bay leaf, tied with kitchen string
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 pinch of ground mace
  • 1 pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 75ml of single cream
  • chopped parsley
  • chopped chives
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and fry the bacon pieces until crisp and golden
Turn the heat down and add the chopped shallots. Cook gently for 8 minutes or until softened. Stir in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes
Add the fish stock or water slowly, stirring all the time. Add the milk, bouquet garni and diced potatoes
Simmer for 6–8 minutes until the potatoes are almost cooked and the sauce has thickened slightly. Add the cubes of smoked haddock, scallop slices and shellfish
Cover the pan with a sheet of foil or a lid and simmer over a low and gentle heat for 3–4 minutes, until the fish is just cooked and the shellfish have opened (discard any mussels or clams that have not opened)
Stir in the cream, season with salt and freshly ground pepper and sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley and chives. Serve in warm bowls with plenty of fresh crusty bread
First published in 2016
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