The concept of comfort food is a deeply personal yet beautiful thing. It changes from one person to another. It’s a dish that has the power to invokes feelings of warmth, security and content. For me that dish can only be one thing: smoked fish chowder. As a kid, if my mum was cooking this in the kitchen I knew everything was alright in the world. Even if I had school the next day. This is a feeling I still get to this day. Below is a pretty simple recipe, note that I have called it smoked fish, because you can use haddock, cod or anything else. A lot of recipes say to avoid dyed smoked fish, but hey, I like it and I think it adds to the dish. Mum, this one is for you.
450g smoked cod or smoked haddock
1 pack of smoked lardons
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp light olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 leeks, thinly sliced
3 celery sticks, thinly sliced
140g/5oz frozen sweetcorn
900g potatoes, diced
3 garlic cloves
Chopped fresh parsley
Put the fish in a deep frying pan with the bay leaf and 600ml/1 pint boiling water. Cover and simmer for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to stand, covered, for a further 5 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid, then flake the fish.
Heat the oil and butter in a deep saucepan. Add the lardons and fry to until coloured. Followed by the vegetables and garlic. Fry over a high heat until starting to soften. Stir in the reserved cooking liquid and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes until the vegetables have softened.
Mash lightly with a potato masher or fork to create a level of luxurious thickness. Add the milk and fish. Simmer for 3 minutes, taste and season if needed (plenty of cracked pepper for me). Sprinkle with chopped parsley to serve with crusty bread.