Tasmania in winter is just beautiful - cold? well yes.... we actually got snowed on as we stood on the banks of an alpine lake taking in the pristine beauty of it. Little snowflakes fluttering down on a face numbing wind. Breathtaking - literally! But with the harsh winter, there is also a lovely cosy feel too - the smell of wood smoke and open fires, everyone rugged up against the cold. And of course, plenty of seasonal comfort food - which is the inspiration for today's recipe.
Filled with fresh seafood and flavoured with leeks and eschallots, my seafood chowder will more than warm the cockles of your heart - especially when served with warm crusty bread on a cold winter night. I used fish, scallops and prawns for my version, but you can use any seafood really. It is also beautiful with the addition of mussels and clams. For a budget friendly version, you can use just fish and it will still be delicious.
As well as my chowder recipe, I also wanted to share a new addition to my kitchen. I have been searching for an old copper kettle for ages, and was thrilled to find one in Hobart. Being an antique, it has a few bumps and mends on it - but no holes, which is the important part! I think it is just beautiful and has heaps of character. It's going to be a pleasure to use. I love the thought of using something that has a history - I wish my new kettle could talk and tell me where it's been and whose households it has been a part of. Here it is, pre- polish.
My Antique Copper Kettle
Now back to the chowder - it is best eaten freshly made and is not suitable to freeze. But it is so delicious you're unlikely to have any leftovers. Serve it will warm crusty bread and lashings of butter. Roaring winter fire optional.
You will need: 400g firm white fish cut into cubes, 6 large shelled and de-veined prawns, 6 scallops, 1 large potato, 1 small carrot, 1 leek- white part only, 4-6 eschallots, 1 clove finely chopped garlic, 2 cups fish or vegetable stock, 2 cups milk, 3 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 tablespoons plain flour, 2 pinches cayenne pepper, 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley, a little extra olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
Method: Peel and finely dice the carrot and potato. Set aside.
Finely slice the leek and eschallots. In a saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Cook the leeks and eschallots on a medium heat for about 5 minutes, until very soft. Do not let them brown. Add the garlic, carrot and potato, season with salt and pepper and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove the vegetables from the pot and set aside.
Cut your prawns and scallops in half and season them with salt and pepper. Heat a little extra olive oil in the pan and cook them quickly on a high heat. The idea is to sear them and give them a little colour - they do not have to be cooked right through, as they will continue to cook in the chowder later. Remove them from the pan and set aside.
Now add 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan. Once bubbling gently, add the plain flour. With a wire whisk, combine the flour and butter thoroughly. It is important to use a whisk and not a spoon, as this will stop any lumps forming. Cook the butter/flour mixture for a few minutes on a medium heat.
Remove from the heat and whisk in the stock, combining well. Now return to the heat. Add the cayenne and milk and whisk it through. The mixture will start to thicken slightly. Add the vegetables back into the pot. Simmer gently for 10 minutes. If the chowder is too thick, add a little extra milk.
Add the fish and stir gently through. Allow to cook for about 2 minutes before adding the prawns, scallops and 1 teaspoon of chopped parsley. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if required.
Spoon into bowls, top with the remaining parsley and serve with warm crusty bread. Serves 4 people.