Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Seafood Chowder

I had the urge to study my favourite cookery book this week: 'The New Soup Bible' and was inspired to make some soup for the family. I wanted a hearty soup as it was going to be served as a main meal, so decided to make the Seafood Chowder. I love seafood but had never had a fish based soup so was really excited to try this, especially while it involved rice, which I love as an ingredient in soup (e.g. Mulligatawny). I feel it adds a whole new layer to the enjoyment of soup, with a lovely oozy texture similar to that of a risotto.

Another item I had never tasted was the scallops. I visited the food market in Wigan for a lot of the ingredients and was pleased to find the scallops, along with the other vegetables I bought, were relatively cheap (about £4 for four large frozen scallops). It felt really good to browse the market for fresh local produce and talk properly to the sellers about how it would be used. The other fish I used was cod, as we’d just had a delivery from ‘the fish man’ and this went really well with the cream, as would haddock. You could also use another white fish such as monkfish or plaice.

Here is the recipe with my own pictures and notes. I am aware of the mix of imperial and metric units but I am part of a generation who has no idea which to use for what and so settle for a healthy mix of both.

Ingredients (Serves 4):
1 cup drained tinned sweetcorn
1 pint milk
1 tbsp butter
1 small leek, sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 smoked streaky bacon rashers, chopped
1 small green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 celery stalk, chopped
115g white long grain rice
1 tsp plain flour
450ml chicken or veg stock (I use Knorr stock pots, which are pots of rich jellified stock)
4 large scallops (preferably with corals)
4oz white fish fillet (I used a couple of pieces of cod)
1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
Good pinch cayenne pepper
3 tbsp single cream
Salt and pepper

1)      Place half the corn kernels in a food processor or blender. Add a little of the milk and process until thick and creamy. Don’t worry about how unappetising it looks at this stage!
2)     Melt the butter in a large pan and gently fry the leek, garlic and bacon for 4-5mins until the leek has soften but not browned. Add the diced green pepper and chopped celery and sweat over a very gentle heat for 3-4mins more, stirring frequently.
3)     Stir in the rice and cook for a few mins until the grains begin to swell. Sprinkle over the flour. Cook, stirring occasionally for about a minute, then gradually stir in the remaining milk and stock.
4)     Bring the mixture to the boil over a medium heat, then lower the heat and stir in the creamed corn mixture, along with the rest of the sweetcorn. Season well with salt and pepper.
5)     5) Cover the pan and simmer the chowder very gently for 20mins or until the rice is tender, stirring occasionally, adding a little more stock or water if the mixture thickens too quickly or the rice begins to stick to the bottom of the pan.
6)     While the soup is simmering you can prepare the seafood. Pull the corals away from the scallops and slice the white flesh into ½ inch pieces (I didn’t manage to get scallops with the corals and so did without which was fine, but the resulting dish was less colourful). Cut the fish fillet into bite size chunks.
7)     Stir the scallops and fish into the chowder, cook for 4mins, then stir in the corals, parsley and cayenne. Cook for a few minutes to heat through, then stir in the cream, if using. Adjust the seasoning to taste and serve.
My family and I thought this soup was tasty and filling, with its creamy, satisfying texture. It was a great soup for mopping up with crusty bread, and I really enjoyed having seafood as part of a soup. The recipe itself was fairly easy with its ‘one-pot’ nature, and took about 45mins to prepare and cook. However, I was slightly disappointed by the scallops, with it being my first time tasting them. I have heard that they are a very delicate taste and I fear it was somewhat overwhelmed by the soup, and so I didn’t really feel like I’d had them. I am eager to try this delicacy in another recipe, using the scallops as the star of the dish.

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