It’s not surprising that chowder is an Irish menu staple. Seen as a “poor man’s food” the hearty soup made with cream and seafood is right down Ireland’s alley when it comes to wholesome local produce.
The popularity of chowder was certainly evident at the fifth All Ireland Chowder Cook-Off, in Kinsale, County Cork last year when 1,000 people came out to taste the countries favorite. Pat O'Neill of Bunratty Manor Hotel, County Clare, was awarded the top prize and declared the champs at the event hosted by Kinsale Good Food Circle. Danny and Dympna Fitzpatrick from Fitzpatrick's Bar and Restaurant, Dundalk, County Louth, last year’s winners came in a close second.
The Irish may be world class when it comes to chowder chops but what does it take to make a perfect batch. As the soup is so old, its name itself derived from the Latin calderia, which originally meant a place for warming things, and later came to mean cooking pot, the recipe is ever varying.
According to the Kinsale Good Food Circle a good chowder starts with cream and wine and then varying combinations of the popular basic ingredients are added, including prawns, lobster, mussels, and clams. Many chowders also featured a vegetable component – chopped leeks, fennel and celery being popular. Of course there are healthier options to this recipe using stock and no wine for example but the basic ingredients and natural flavors of this dish will blow you away. And what better way to serve this sumptuous healthy and home-grown feast than with some homemade brown bread slathered with Irish butter.
Here’s a recipe:
Serves 4 to 6.
1.2 litres/2 pints fish stock
100g/4oz skinless salmon fillet, cubed
100g/4oz skinless haddock fillet, cubed
50g/2oz butter 1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 leek, chopped
3 celery sticks, chopped
1 tsp chopped fresh dill
1 tsp crushed peppercorns
50g/2oz plain flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A little milk (optional)
Cream and chopped fresh parsley, to garnish
Bring the fish stock to a gentle simmer in a large pan and add the salmon and haddock.
Cook for a couple of minutes until tender.
Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon. Set aside.
Melt butter in a separate large pan over a medium heat.
Sweat the onion, carrots, leek and celery for about 10 minutes or until they are softened
Add the dill and peppercorns.
Cook for a further 5 minutes.
Stir the flour into the vegetable mixture and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Gradually pour in the fish stock, stirring until smooth after each addition.
Boil and simmer for 15 minutes until all of the vegetables are completely tender and the liquid is slightly reduced.
Season to taste.
Just before serving add a little milk to thin it out to your desired consistency.
Add the cooked salmon and haddock and warm through.
Ladle into bowls and garnish with cream and some parsley.
Serve with brown bread.
* Originally published in 2015.