Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Haddock chowder

We have moved out of our house and are living with my parents, in order to allow our builders to build a kitchen extension in peace, without Giles tearing down the stairs every few minutes telling them they're doing it all wrong.

I sort of hate myself for having the extension done. It's so predictable. But we did such an awful, half-arsed job of dragging the house into the 21st Century during the last round of building works that this is sort of essential. Didn't Simone de Beauvoir say something about those being confined to the domestic sphere contrive to make it complicated or something...? Well I am confined to the domestic sphere and I contrive to make it flipping complicated.

So we're living in my parents' giant house in Hampstead Garden Suburb, back in my old room, Kitty banged up downstairs in a room that has only ever, I think, been a spare room.

My overwhelming emotion being here is one of penance. I wasn't a particularly horrible child or teenager, I don't think, but I was very untidy. My room, really one of the nicest in the house, was always strewn with clothes and general crap and I would leave dirty mugs and plates lying around everywhere.

Now I'm back, I am hellbent on being fastidiously tidy. I want to let my mother know, without actually saying anything, that I am sorry for not understanding when I was a teenager what a fucking pain in the arse keeping a house tidy is and how depressing it is walking into someone else's incredibly disgustingly messy room is.

Over the last few weeks, in my new mania for trying to keep my own house tidy, I have learnt this: if you tidy something away, or fold something up, or wipe down a surface, you instantly forget about it. And when you return, it is AS NICE as if SOMEONE ELSE has done it for you.

Of course a major benefit of living with one's parents is 1) free evening babysitting and 2) someone else making dinner.

Last night we had haddock chowder and it was just sublime. This is technically cullen skink, but I didn't want to call it that because every time I have come across a recipe for cullen skink I have skipped past it, assuming that it is some monstrously fishy yukky horror using a mackerel-like thing called a skink - and I can only assume that you are as thick as me.

My quantities here are not exact, but it's not an exact thing.
Haddock chowder (or cullen skink)
1/2 fillet haddock per person
bunch parsely
medium onion, chopped
two sticks celery, chopped
2 rashers bacon, CHOPPED
salt and pepper
1 potato per person, diced
1 litre fish stock, made with any old fish stock cube
300ml single or whipping cream

1 Sweat the onions and celery with a generous knob of butter - about 50g - for at least 15 mins. If you want to be really classy, lay a sheet of greaseproof paper between your pan and your lid. It is very important to cook the onions through because otherwise the cream will curdle later - I don't know why.

2 Add the bacon and turn in the pan for a few minutes, then add the potato. Add the fish and then pour over the fish stock until everything is covered. Simmer all this for about 10 minutes, or until the potato is tender. Finish with the cream and some chopped parsley. Season. We ate this with sheets of cheddar laid across the top, which was terrific. Kitty ate the leftovers the next day.


  1. I did precisely the same thing when I went home to Oz to stay with my mother for three weeks last year. Still not sure how to properly atone for being such a dumping slob of a child. I even used to wear my pyjama top inside out every second night, because I couldn't be bothered to turn it out the right way...

  2. What an upbeat, positive post: nice, but try not to make a habit of it. A "skink": I like it. Mmm...I've long wanted to try making chowder and now you've inspired me. And don't hate yourself for having the extension done: just think how many people – including designers like me – projects like that keep in work.

  3. I feel this way when I have to clean... I want to leave immediately so a) I don't mess it up again and b) I can enjoy the lovely 'surprise' of seeing it clean on my return like the fairies visted. Or something.
    Chowder is yum but I have a weird aversion to mixing fish and meat produce in any way. Poss to sub anchovies for the salty instead of bacon?

  4. Incidentally, you're not thick – there is such a thing as a skink, though it's not mackerel-like and you probably wouldn't want to make a chowder with it, though I expect someone somewhere does: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Blue-toungued_skink444.jpg

  5. A skink in Australia is a very small lizard. This soup sounds lovely.

  6. I was wondering if the haddock was smoked or not?

  7. It wasn't but by all means use smoked if you like, although purely smoked haddock will be quite salty

  8. I also didn't realise that Cullen Skink was simply haddock chowder. V. bad marketing in my opinion; Cullen Skink sounds nasty!

  9. Well loved favourite in our house.
    But we omit the bacon and go with smoked haddock. Which is my altogether favourite thing ever. But it is sweet as anything in Scotland.
    I think that the cleaning thing is true... just wait until little miss falls into your vacated role. I'm finding half eaten stuff, half drunk cups, hair straighteners still plugged in (she gets txtd at school saying not to worry house not burned down) and couldn't find my Mac charger, battery on red!! in her room under shit. (not literally - not that bad)

  10. I found your blog by reading a magazine in the doctor's waiting room this morning! they recommended it, so here I am.Like the sound of this recipe so will probably be back.

  11. So basically, your brother-in-law is going to be David Mitchell. Already so jealous of the dinner parties...

  12. You've done haddock chowder before.

  13. Fabulously written. Dom (from Belleau Kichen) sent me over to see your blog. I am terribly glad he did!

  14. "if you tidy something away, or fold something up, or wipe down a surface, you instantly forget about it. And when you return, it is AS NICE as if SOMEONE ELSE has done it for you."

    It's ridiculous but reading this has helped me turn over a new leaf. Our kitchen has been spotless for a fortnight. This is unprecedented. Honestly, Thank You.

  15. Epona I am so pleased! Honestly, housework makes me feel absolutely sick, despite it being a very honourable, neccessary and worthwhile pursuit. And if I can help anyone else overcome that little hillock of hatred and resistance that so many feel to tidying up, well, my life has not been worthless xxx

  16. I just made this for tea and it was jolly nice! Another triumph :)