Chowders are made all across the world, which means there is no ‘classic’ recipe; each country has its own interpretation. Some say that the origin of the word chowder is chaudron, which was the French word for cauldron. Mine is a simple light vegetable and shellfish soup. If you want to give it more richness, add some crisp grilled or pan-fried bacon or even smoked fish. Make sure you choose the freshest of seafood and the best quality mussels, which will be shiny, closed, heavy with seawater and have no ‘fishy’ smell.
For the shellfish chowder:
Mussels, washed, beards removed
Large leek, outer 5 layers removed and thinly sliced
Garlic clove, sliced
Root ginger, finely grated (optional)
Nutmeg, ground (optional)
For the garnish:
Leek, cut into 3cm batons
Desiree or Maris Piper potato, peeled and cut into 1cm dice
Lemon juice (to taste)
Wakame seaweed, rinsed
Sea salt freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
To prepare the shellfish:
Before you start, ensure all the clams, mussels and cockles are tightly closed; any that are not should be discarded as they are dead.
Put a large saucepan on to a high heat. Once hot, add the white wine and bring to the boil.
Add the shellfish, cover with a lid and cook for 2–3 minutes until all have opened; discard any that haven’t.
Pour into a bowl and cool slightly before picking out the flesh and discarding the shells. Set the flesh aside, strain the cooking liquor and reserve.
For the Chowder:
In a separate large saucepan on a medium heat, melt the butter and sweat the leek, onion, garlic and bay leaf for 5 minutes, until soft but with no colour.
Add the reserved shellfish cooking liquor, water, cream and the ginger and nutmeg if using.
Place into a blender and blend until smooth. Set aside, ready to re-heat while you prepare the garnish.
For the garnish:
In a separate small sauté pan on a medium heat, melt the butter and sweat the leek batons and diced potatoes for 5 minutes with a pinch of salt and pepper.
Add 2 tablespoons of water and simmer for a further 3 minutes until the potato is cooked through.
Add the cooked shellfish flesh, remove from the heat and leave to one side while you re-heat the chowder.
Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper and lemon juice.
Divide the hot garnish between four bowls and pour over the soup, garnish with a little edible seaweed and serve immediately
This recipe is adapted from the book Kew on a Plate
Accompanying a very special BBC TV series Raymond filmed with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, this is the story of the nation's favourite fruit and veg. You’ll find an array of mouth-watering seasonal recipes, detailed tasting notes, and valuable tips for growing your own produce from the talented gardeners of Kew. A perfect read for the green-fingered gastronome.