Smoked haddock & sweetcorn chowder

IMG_2179I realise I have been somewhat remiss at posting recipes of late, but there haven’t been too many exciting things coming out of my cooking cupboard – and certainly nothing remotely photogenic. My challenge is to cook things using no more than two pans, as I only have a two-ring electric camping hob at my disposal. Unfortunately, the choice of temperature seems to be ‘nuclear hot’ or ‘off’. No simmering then – I could kick myself for not remembering to bring our rarely-used slow-cooker over from Turkey.

We are witnessing a mass departure of summer holidaymakers from Cornwall this week – the A39 heading north is definitely not a place to be. We are having to find our way around using the narrow back lanes, which means quite a lot of breathing in and not necessarily taking the most direct route (ahem). On the plus side, along the way we’ve picked tons of blackberries, now residing in the freezer ready for a day when we have an oven again, and we’ve found some pretty interesting farm shops and roadside stalls, selling ultra-fresh veggies and other goodies.

We had a week of glorious weather, so it was lovely to see families enjoying a good old-fashioned British seaside holiday on Falmouth’s gorgeous sandy beaches. Lots of people were swimming – they must be much hardier than I am. I have no intention of casting any clouts whatsoever until we are back in Turkey at the end of the month – I’ve barely taken my cardie off since we arrived in June, so it would be foolish to do anything rash at this stage.

The good news is that the first kitchen units are being installed as I type – there are so many men here today that I am beginning to feel like the Perranwell outpost of Starbucks. Still, if it gets my kitchen in, bring it on. Here are the chief protagonists having a well-earned coffee break – still hard to believe this is ever going to be a kitchen…

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Allegedly, in a relatively short space of time, my kitchen will look like the image on the left – well that’s the plan anyway.

I may have to start talking about being able to bake scones and pasties if only I had an oven – apparently the way to a Cornish man’s heart – and see whether that helps them to keep them focused.

Other recent improvements are that we have cold water coming out of all taps again – no more filling the loo cisterns with buckets of water – and we may even have hot water by the end of today, as the gas engineer is in the roof right now. I am not holding my breath – anyway, after two weeks of bucket carrying, we’ve decided taps with running water and toilets that fill automatically are for cissies.

We are eating quite a lot of soup at the minute, as it is something which is easy to create in ‘the cupboard’. I came across some rather nice looking smoked haddock when we were out on an errand yesterday, as well as some gorgeous fresh cobs of sweetcorn, still wrapped in their green husks, so I decided a chowder with some good bread would be just the thing for tonight’s supper. If you wanted to zizz it up a little, you could add some fresh salmon or a handful of prawns, or even a few mussels or clams (or all of those, says Robin).

I am sorry about the photography – my cupboard only has a flourescent light and I can’t be carrying cauldrons of soup around the house, looking for daylight, or I shall be tripping over a plumber or carpenter and causing havoc on an industrial scale. And we’re still using the trusty Ikea table mats that we normally use outdoors, as we’ve yet to track down the box containing the tablecloths – stylish we are not!

Smoked haddock & sweetcorn soup

Serves 4 – 6

1 tablespoon olive oil and a large knob of butter
1 large leek, washed, halved lengthways and sliced
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped or sliced
3 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, diced
1 celery stalk, washed and finely chopped
1 heaped tablespoon plain flour
½ litre fish or vegetable stock (a cube is fine, or just use water)
½ litre milk
1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1cm dice
Kernels from 1 fresh corn on the cob (or use frozen or tinned)
1 large fillet smoked haddock (or other smoked fish of your choice)
A handful each of frozen peas and soya beans
Plenty of chopped parsley and dill
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons double cream (optional)
Salt & pepper


Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan and add the onion, leeks, celery and bacon. Cook over a medium heat until the onion and leek has softened and become translucent.

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Add the flour and stir until everything is well combined – it will look a bit unappetising at the moment, but stay with the programme, all will be fine.

Remove the corn kernels from the cob – the easiest way to do this is to cut it in half across the middle (cut a slash in it and break it with your hands), then put the flat end down onto the chopping board and use a sharp knife to slice down from top to bottom, removing the kernels as you go. You can break up the strips with your fingers when you’ve removed them all.

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Stir in the stock (or water) and milk, together with the potatoes and sweetcorn (if you are using tinned corn, add later with the fish). If you have any stalks from the parsley and/or dill, chop them finely and add to the pot, along with the bay leaves and some salt and pepper.

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Bring to the boil, turn down the heat to low, cover with a lid and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes.

Cut the fish fillet into small chunks (around 1cm square).

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Add the fish chunks to the pan together with the peas and soya beans. Replace the lid and cook for another 10 minutes or so, or until the potatoes and corn are soft.

Check the seasoning and stir in the cream (if using) and most of the chopped parsley and dill, saving a little to scatter over the top.

Serve in warm bowls with plenty of crusty bread.

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