More Comfort Food for the Summer

The calendar tells me that it’s Summer, but my goosebumps and two layers of clothes are telling me the opposite. This can only mean one thing: the unique British Summertime.

The occasional sunny days, when all the barbeque's are dragged out, dusted off and set alight, meat blackening on top of these pyres, are always generously seasoned with showers, wind, overcast-ness and even hail.
Try as I might to endure the constant flip-flopping of the weather, I have simply written this summer off as a bad job and am looking forward to Autumn instead, when we at least stand some chance of warm weather.
This has reflected itself vividly in my cooking too. Cosy soups and comforting puds have been on the menu in the Erickson household these past few weeks.
I don’t want to completely give into eating steamed puddings just yet though, or cooking full roast dinners so I am trying to find a decent balance. Chowder seems to fulfil that need for something to give me a warm, culinary hug without shouting "Winter!" too loudly at me.
Despite its relatively local etymology (Chowder is a derivation of the French word Chaudiere, which roughly means a “hot pot”, although it could also refer to the word “jowter”, old English for Fishermonger), us closeted Brits don’t really cook Chowder, preferring vegetable, tomato or the Little Black Dress of the soup world, Chicken. However, since meeting my husband, I have discovered the joy of Chowder, just as the New Englanders did, so many years ago, when Breton fishermen would serve up huge, bubbling cauldrons of fish soup, freshly made with the catch of the day. To this day, Chowder is always affiliated with New England despite there being many deviations from the original French recipes, which would have originally resembled a Bouillabaise.
Indeed, such is the widespread popularity of the Chowder that it is noted in Moby Dick and makes an appearance in an episode of the Simpsons. Expensive but inferior tinned versions are available on every supermarket shelf.
The most famous of all Chowders though, is the Clam Chowder, a typical New England version, using their local shellfish catches and almost impossible to replicate if you live in the UK, far away from where Clams tend to inhabit. Fortunately, tinned Clams offer an ethereal taste of the Northeast and can be quite a convincing substitute.
But, for those unfortunate few who don’t like shellfish, you could just use plain old fish, prawns, cod, salmon, haddock, whatever firm fish is local to you. Or, forget the fish altogether and make a vegetarian version using potato and corn. The familiar creamy chowder texture is still vivid and the corn adds a wonderful sweetness to the soup that is offset by green peppers and onions. Some versions even add tomatoes, which is more redolent of the original fish stew served up by those French fisherman all those years ago.
It is dead simple to make; onions, garlic, celery, green pepper, diced potato simmered in olive oil, bacon fat or butter until tender. Some stock, milk, Cannellini Beans and canned Sweetcorn (I used creamed sweetcorn because that was all I had and it was just fine, although you may need to add a little more salt than usual) are then added, plus Dried Thyme and whole Peppercorns for a little bit of heat and the soup is virtually ready. At this point you could add your clams, or fish but it is completely substantial without either. A quick simmer, a readjustment of seasoning and the soup is ready to be served, steaming hot, into deep soup bowls, with crusty, buttered bread.
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Butter or Bacon Fat (you can fry off a rasher or two
1 Onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 Clove Garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 Sticks Celery, de-stringed and finely chopped
1 Small Green Pepper, finely chopped
1 Baking Potato, peeled and cut into ½” dice.
1 400g Can Tinned Sweetcorn or Creamed Sweetcorn
1 Tin Cannellini Beans (or tinned bean of your choice, you want a pale, creamy bean though)
Pinch of Dried Thyme or Sprig of Fresh
¾ Pint Stock or Water (I used water and the flavour was not impacted in anyway)
½ Pint Milk
Heat the oil and butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan and sauté the onions, garlic, celery, pepper and potato for about 4 or 5 minutes, or until the vegetables start to look translucent and soft.
Turn the heat down to low, cover and leave to gently sweat down for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure they don’t stick.
Pour over the stock or water, bring to the boil, turn down to a gently simmer, cover and cook for another 10 minutes or until the potato is cooked.
Add the beans, sweetcorn and milk, including all of their tin liquids, the Thyme and a little seasoning. Bring to the boil once more, turn down and simmer for another couple of minutes, just to allow the flavours to amalgamate.
Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.
Add a swirl of cream if necessary and a sprinkling of grated Gruyere or Cheddar to finish.
Serve with thickly buttered crusty bread.


Lydia said...

An alternative to clam chowder here in New England is corn chowder, which is much like your recipe only without the beans, and with lots more corn. A bit of something red, like paprika or cayenne, often tops it off.

Shaun said...

Freya, love - If I were in New Zealand, I'd probably hop to it and make this sensational sounding chowder (have you ever tried one of crab with its requisite partner, Old Bay seasoning? Divine). In Southern California, most of the year is spent in some shade of summer (ranging from blistering hot to warm days, cool nights). It will, however, be early Spring (that is to say, very wet) when I return to Auckland, so this might be a lovely meal to return home to, but perhaps with kumara (a New Zealand sweet potato)instead of potato, just to change things up a bit.

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

I wanted to make chowder when we were playing with America. We made the cabbage dutch style dish but I made it with chicken and bacon as didn't get to the butcher. Very nice, thanks!

Ulrike said...

Great food! I try to duplicate the recipe in a slow cooker

Baking Soda said...

That's what we need these days in the Netherlands as well, last week i was tempted to make split pea soup! Instead made a tomato-ginger but this one would be great!

Kelly-Jane said...

It's wierd being so chilly one day, then hot the next. I'm def in need of carb-y warming food!

Soup sounds lovely.

Like the changes to your blog as well. Have always meant to say as well, what about your Burger Ballyhoo? Looking forward to seeing everyones burgers.

katiez said...

So THAT's what we're having here in the Vendee - A British summer!
Forgive me if I don't say 'How lovely'
Corn chowder looks good!

Freya and Paul said...

As any regular to this blog knows, we are about as broke as possible without being destitute. We are also magnets for unfortunate events. I'm not looking for sympathy by explaining this, just asking for a bit of patience with regard to the Ballyhoo.
I know we're one month overdue on the announcement, but there is good reason. The camera used to take photos of the entries was ruined with liquid from a container of feta cheese. We ordered a card reader to save the photos. I began writing the article for the Ballyhoo and then the transformer for the laptop went bad. All the photos and information about entrants was saved on a computer I couldn't access. We just received a new cord after waiting several weeks and can now proceed with the Ballyhoo post.
The announcement will be made shortly.
Sorry for the inconvenience.

Patricia Scarpin said...

Love the new template!

Sara said...

I will trade you for a bit of your English's 32'C here and I've just come in from painting the deck. I'm melting!!! After a cold drink and shower though, I think a bowl of that soup would be wonderful.

Deborah said...

I am a huge chowder fan - clam, corn, I'll take it however I can get it!!

Sorry to hear about the bad luck - I hope everything is up and running now.

veron said...

this looks so cozy and tasty! I need to file this away to make this autumn.

Nora B. said...

Freya, that sounds perfect for the kind of weather we are having in Sydney.
p/s: i like the new look of your blog

joey said...

I'd love to tuck myself on our couch with a big bowl of that chowder and a good book! Sounds delicious! :)

Love the new look! :)

Claude-Olivier said...

I was in LA and NY for 10 days, the weather was not so bad and the temperature was around 25°C..I came back to Switzerland....8°C at 9h00.... too bad! But the sun is here now !!! hope it stay a few weeks ;-) I will keek this recipe if it is not the case ;-) cheers

wheresmymind said...

Can you really beat corn/potato anything?

Monkey Wrangler said...

Yeah, recently the news on the West Coast was the scorching heat of last week. Here in Oakland, that meant a few days around 80, one around 90 somewhere in there, and then back to the same ol' mid sixties during the days and blowing fogs at night. Ah, summer. At least it's 5 degrees warmer than "the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in" San Francisco.

I'm making this the next time we're projected to not see mister sunny for the day.......

tigerfish said...

I thought I was goin to get clam chowder but a potato sweetcorn chowder works fine too! :D

Callipygia said...

Thanks for the reminder, I love chowda and it is so easy to make. Plus who can resist a little clam juice!

Kirsten said...

Like the new look!!!

And this looks so delicious. I am VERY jealous about your cold is VERY VERY hot in most of the US right now. :)

kellypea said...

Your new blog looks great, Freya! And your weather sounds like ours. Grey. The comfort food you've been cooking looks so good. Oh my, the cabbage and sausage will be something I will try.

Cris said...

My first time here and made this a few days ago for my family. It was great! My husband, youngest son and I loved it, my oldest didn't care for it (he hates corn) but he ate it. No leftovers here. Will try it again and change the corn to another veggie. Maybe the older son will like it then. Thanks for sharing.