Creamy seafood soup recipe
THE United States of America isn’t all junk food and huge portions.
Like Australia, the Americans have taken the best dishes from various countries and made them their own.
The famous clam chowder, most common on the northeast coast (around the New England area), stemmed from fishermen from all nationalities cooking up the leftovers of their catch at the end of the day. The hearty soup was thickened with hardtack or sea biscuits back then – the sailor’s staple.
Variations were developed in other areas: Portuguese-American fishermen added tomatoes (although the New Englanders pooh-poohed that idea, and actually passed legislation against the addition), and other nationalities fine-tuned the basics to put their own stamp on the dish. There are clear versions available, but I prefer the thick, white-coloured chowder you get when milk and cream are part of the ingredients.
I’ve eaten many chowders in New England, with most consisting of clams and potatoes and often served with crackers to crumble over the top – a salute to the traditional recipes with their hardtack. The crumbled crackers, like pappadoms on a curry, add texture and crunch.
When I was a kid, my mum would cook smoked cod for my dad. As usual, when anything aromatic was on the stove, my sister and I would run gagging from the house, precious little princesses that we were. As with most things that upset my sensibilities back then, I’ve learned to like it in a soup, so I use smoked cod for my version of seafood chowder. I’m still not fond of the aroma on its own but, combined with the other ingredients, the distinctive flavour gives the soup/stew a boost. It’s also quite reasonably priced and available from just about any deli counter in a supermarket. To prepare the cod, using a sharp knife, carefully flake the flesh from the tough skin on the back of the fillet. Any little bones you find during the process are easily removed. Use food-grade disposable gloves if you don’t want fingers that will make you run gagging from the house at the end of it all.
what you need:
1 tblspn olive oil
100g bacon, sliced into batons
1 white onion, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tblspn plain flour
3 cups chicken or fish stock
2 cups milk
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs thyme
4 medium potatoes (about 500g) peeled and sliced thinly
cayenne pepper, to taste (1/4-1 tspn)
2 tins smoked oysters, drained
200g smoked cod – about two fillets (see note below)
12 green king prawns
1/4 cup cream
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
salted crackers, to serve (optional)
what you do:
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add bacon, onion, celery and garlic and cook, stirring, until onion is soft.
Stir in flour and cook for one minute; stir in stock.
Add milk, herbs, potatoes and cayenne pepper.
Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
Place chowder in a blender or food processor and process until smooth.
Return to saucepan, add oysters, prawns and smoked cod (see note below). Return to the boil and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Stir through cream and parsley, season to taste with salt and pepper. Crumble crackers on top if desired. If not, serve with crusty bread.
NB: To prepare smoked cod, use a sharp knife to flake the flesh from the tough skin, discarding any bones as you go. Discard the skin. Use food-grade disposable gloves if you wish.