Irish people don’t really like fish, but we love chowder. It’s not overwhelmingly fishy, and we all love anything creamy. Too creamy is a mistake when it comes to chowder, though. It overwhelms the subtle flavours of the vegetables and the various fish, and it can be too heavy and rich. With this recipe, the potatoes are really the thickening ingredient. A little cream is good, though, as the fat enhances all the flavours. By making the soup first, with the potatoes and the smoked haddock, and then blending it, you get a lovely smooth texture. Then I add some cubed fish and shellfish and chopped veg, to give bite and interest. The crackers, for garnish, give a lovely extra texture. It’s very easy to make your own fish stock. Ask your fishmonger for fish bones; get them from a flat fish, such as plaice or sole, as they have better flavour. Put the bones in a pot of cold water with some chopped carrot, onion and celery, bring it to the boil, immediately turn it down to simmer and leave it simmering gently for about 30 minutes. That’s it. It’s quick and very simple, but it’s very important not to leave it boiling or the stock will go cloudy and bitter.
You will need: ½ each leek, onion and fennel bulb, all chopped 1 stick of celery, chopped 1 tablespoon of olive oil 20ml ( ¾ fl oz) white wine 10 strands saffron 400ml (14fl oz) fish stock 50g (1 ¾ oz) smoked haddock 1 large potato, cut into small cubes 200ml (7fl oz) milk 300ml (11fl oz) cream Salt and freshly ground black pepper ½ each carrot, stick of celery, fennel bulb, all finely chopped and blanched 75g (2 ½ oz) selection of fish in 1cm (less than ½ in) cubes (cod, salmon, smoked haddock) 25g (1oz) mussels and clams Crackers to garnish — 2 crackers per bowl
Method: Saute the chopped leek, the chopped onion, the chopped fennel bulb and the chopped celery in a tablespoon of olive oil over a medium heat. When the chopped vegetables are soft, add the white wine and the saffron threads and reduce the liquid to almost nothing. Add the fish stock, the smoked haddock and the potato cubes. Reduce the liquid by half, then add the milk and the cream and reduce a little. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Blend the mixture, then pass it through a fine strainer. Return the strained, smooth soup to a pot and add the finely chopped, blanched carrot, the finely chopped, blanched celery and the finely chopped, blanched fennel and the cubed selection of fish. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the fish is almost cooked — a few minutes — then add the mussels and clams and cook for a further minute. Serve in bowls with the crackers crushed on top.