RECIPE: Cooking up the day's catch
THE famous clam chowder, most common on the north-east coast of America (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.
I've eaten many chowders in New England; most consist of clams and potatoes in the main and are often served with crackers to crumble over the top; a salute to the traditional recipes with their hardtack. The crumbled crackers, like poppadoms on a curry, add texture and crunch.
INGREDIENTS: 1 tbs olive oil
100g bacon, sliced into batons
1 white onion, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tbs 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 tsp)
2 tins smoked oysters, drained
200g smoked cod (about two fillets) (see note below)
12 green king prawns, peeled
1/4 cup cream
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
salted crackers, to serve (optional).
METHOD: Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add bacon, onion, celery and garlic; 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. 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. Serves 6.
Note: To prepare smoked cod, use food-grade disposable gloves and a sharp knife to flake the flesh from the tough skin, discarding any bones as you go. Discard the skin.
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