How To Cook Your Catch (Rube Allyn) has 6 chowder recipes – two featuring Key West grunt. Mother’s favourite, Keith Floyd, gives us another two – for clams and corn. And clam chowder features again in Alaska’s Cooking*, produced by the Anchorage Women’s Club in 1965 (5th Printing). Shortly after this, on 4th July 1967, I remember digging for clams followed by watching them steam in what looked like oil drums out at Big Lake.

*For Alaskaphiles, Alaska’s Cooking features several recipes written by Edna Ferber (fish mousse with cucumber sauce), Lile Rasmuson (Cheese Fondue) and Blanche Preston McSmith (Chick-etti).

My own ancestral link to chowder would have to be the hard tack eaten by sailors. These days there seems to be a lot of cream in chowder, but I don’t think cream would have survived for long out on the Grand Banks. More likely a mush of hard tack and water. I imagine the cod fisherman eating saltfish chowder on the outbound journey and fresh cod chowder on the return …

Ingredients for two servings: 100g/4oz haddock filet – fresh or smoked. A few cooked Atlantic prawns, one slice of smoked salmon, two medium potatoes, two carrots, a few brussel sprouts, two or three Tbsp of sweet corn niblets, a handful of fresh parsley. Up to 275ml/half a pint of a combination of milk and single cream, a knob of butter, one or two water biscuits, ground pepper and sea salt.

Method: If using smoked haddock, poach it for a few minutes to remove some of the salt. Then cut the fish into thick slices and cook in butter at the bottom of a deep cast iron pot. Remove when half cooked. Add all the vegetables: washed, peeled and cubed. Stir around in the residue of butter and fish bits. Add the pepper – you need to gauge any additions of salt to complement your choice of fish.

Leave cooking away on a very low heat. Then, when it is beginning to cook down, add the creamy milk and the water biscuits. If this does not cover the vegetables, top it up with water. Stir thoroughly and leave on low for about 30 minutes, until the carrots are just cooked. At this stage you may either blitz the soup in a blender or mash it to leave identifiable lumps.

Finally, return the fish to the soup (remove any skin now), throw in the prawns and the finely chopped parsley. Simmer until the fish is cooked. Serve in bowls or mugs with Saltine crackers or more water biscuits.

2 thoughts on “Chowder

  1. I learned to make clam chowder from Emmy Lou Owen somewhere along the shores of the Cook Inlet, just off the old Glenn Highway. There were six of us. We dug the clams from the wet sand and Emmy Lou demonstrated the chowder. Did someone build a fire? Maybe. Was there a camping stove? Perhaps. Emmy Lou began by frying bacon and onions at the bottom of a cast iron stock pot. She sliced corn from the cob and then she threw in canned potatoes, evaporated milk and parsley. The clams went in last. We ate oyster crackers with our chowder. It was the best ever. Virginia

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