There are many reasons to buy April Bloomfield’s wonderful cookbook A Girl and Her Pig, and not all of them have to do with the fact that its original cover provoked a fatwa by militant vegetarians. Not only is the writing lovely, but the recipes are damn good in a very hearty, satisfying, un-fussy way. It’s not the sort of book that demands immersion circulators, or will ever ask you to smear something artfully with the back of a spoon.
One of our favourite recipes from the book is Bloomfield’s recipe for a smoked haddock chowder (though you could use smoked cod or barramundi or any other firm white-fleshed fish) and given that the papers say there is not going to be another close to brisk evening in Sydney for the next seven years or so we gave it another burl last night:
There’s a few tricks involved but the key is really letting the fish steep in the milk and cream in which you boil the potatoes, which ensures that the flavour really comes through the soup. Good fish stock is also helpful, and there are decent ones on the market now so one need not fiddle around with this on a weeknight.
At Stately Prick Manor, we also add a bit of Spanish pimenton, which adds a pleasing background heat and smoke – not overpowering smoke, mind you, but still enough so that if Tanya Plibersek found out about it she’d try and smack a warning label on the bowl. Northern hemisphere denizens getting ready for winter would do well to keep this recipe in their back pocket.
Speaking of the northern hemisphere, it is worth noting that chowder is a fairly ancient, or at least antique, concept, with obscure origins along the north-eastern coast of North America. The theory runs that Breton fisherman in Canada threw the scraps of the day’s catch into a cooking pot, or chaudière. From there it became chowder, and the famous CHOW-DAH! we think of as the staple food of Bostonians.
So go on! Say it! Say chowder!
It’s interesting that the French Colonial etymological origins of the name Chowder is similar to the disputed origins of the Vietnamese soup Pho, (pronounced “Fur”) which is thought to come from the French “pot-au-feu”, or even just “feu” (fire), as it’s cooked over an open fire.
Funnily though, the French in France pronounce it as just “Fo”!
That’s also similar to the San Francisco Cioppino – fishermen were asked to ‘Chip in’ the scraps of the day’s catch into the communal pot.
Are fishermen natural socialists?
Yeah but what about the Simpsons (any important culinary or social issue has been covered there hilariously). Mayor Quimby the Bostonian accented Ted kennedy satire gets into a mortal battle with a French chef who, instead of saying “chow-dah” insists it is “chow – derrr”. The ensuing battle in the kitchen eventually leads to the chef’s demise.
I say, what?