Wintry nights call for cosy, creamy food, stuff you can eat sitting around with family or friends in a candle-lit room or close to a fireplace. The rich flavours and tastes of seafood, combined with velvety cream sauces, make for warm, soothing eating. Forget about the fat content of the dairy ingredients you add to these fish dishes; we all need an extra layer at that time of the year.
You may want to make your own fish stock. It is the quickest of stocks to make, and you can make a big batch and freeze it in smaller portions for future use. If you go fishing, freeze all the bones you have left after filleting until you have time to make stock. Good fish shops can also supply you with fish frames and heads.
|1||Fish, bones and heads for stock (Main)|
|1 sprig||Fresh thyme|
|1 stalk||Celery, diced|
|3 cups||Mixed vegetables|
|2 Tbsp||Olive oil|
|1||Lemon, juice and finely grated zest|
|1 Tbsp||Flour, thoroughly blended in 3 tablespoons of cold water|
|1 to taste||Cream|
|1 to taste||Salt & freshly ground pepper|
|1 to garnish||Fresh parsley|
|3 cups||Fish, prawns, shellfish, smoked or fresh salmon etc|
|1 to serve||Crusty bread|
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For the Stock
- Rinse your fish bones, heads and trimmings in cold water. Avoid including too much skin; the fat layer that sits below the skin will muddy your stock.
- In a large pot add a bay leaf, parsley stalks, a sprig of thyme, a few peppercorns, diced celery, carrot and white onion. Sit the fish frames on top of this and cover with cold water. On a gentle heat, simmer for 20 minutes. Do not stir, just let the water bubble through the ingredients. Skim off any debris that forms on the surface. Remove from the heat and allow to settle.
- Carefully drain off the stock. You can pass this through a fine sieve or muslin for a clearer result.
- You'll need about 3 cups of diced veges. Pick and mix from celery, white or red onion, potatoes, carrots, parsnip, kumara, leek and fennel bulb. Try to cut small dices of the same size from each vege.
- Sweat the vegetables off in 2 tablespoons of olive oil with a bay leaf.
- When softened, squeeze in the juice of a lemon and add the finely grated zest.
- Just cover the mix with fish stock or water and simmer till the vegetables are tender.
- Add a tablespoon of flour, cornflour or arrowroot that has been thoroughly blended in 3 tablespoons of cold water. Cook this out a little, stirring it into the vegetables. The mix will get quite thick.
- Add cream, a mix of cream and milk or, if you do not want to use dairy, more stock or water. You need to reach about 8 cups of liquid volume in the pan (including the original ingredients). Add the liquid carefully, a bit a time while swirling it through the vegetable base. Do not allow to boil.
- Once all your liquid has been added, simmer at the lowest point and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Add 2-3 cups of chunky fish pieces, prawns, scrubbed shellfish, smoked or fresh salmon etc. As with the seafood stew, the choice is yours. Gently allow the fish to poach or the shellfish to open. Sprinkle liberally with chopped parsley, chives or spring onions and serve with warm, crusty bread. This chowder will warm the cockles of your heart.