I made dinner with Zoe on Saturday.
We met in Brixton market to shop for ingredients, wandered around and (I) looked in awe at the number of new restaurants, shops and cafés that have opened there during the last few years, and even since I last visited – more than can be thought of at once. While one or two appear a bit cynical or contrived, there are many useful additions to Brixton’s encyclopedic variety of alimentary suppliers and places to eat out. Market Row Wines, presided over by a friendly man called David Simpson, who was drinking a small glass of stout when we walked in, is a particularly good shop. Mr Simpson, after consultation on what we’d be cooking, provided us with a delicious white wine (which I am ashamed to say, I did not record the name of). More than this, everything he stocks is affordable, and none of it is the kind of dull, rip-off, branded dross you see in supermarkets. How wonderful to be able to try unusual wines without a prohibitive price, and to be offered, with zero fuss or pretence, to taste the £7 bottle we chose before purchase.
Anyway, the (not new) fishmonger in the market opposite the famed (and relative to the new places, long established ) Franco Manca, provided us with live Clams and Coley (in place of Haddock) and Zoe’s fave grocer in the market gave us the veg. The sweet corn came from Zoe’s veg box, and it’s in season right now (or before the frost!) in the UK.
This recipe was an attempt to reconstruct the ambrosial chowder that my mum cooked last time I was home with Haddock and sweet corn.
Served Two, with a small amount leftover
double-handful of live clams – well rinsed (throw out any with cracked shells or that are already open)
2 fillets of Coley (or Haddock, or other white fish) cut into smallish chunks
sweetcorn cut from two cobs with a sharp knife
1 white onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 large glass white wine
2 tablespoons thai/viet fish sauce (or a ladle of good fish stock)
1 small carton of single cream
handful of spinach
fresh herbs to garnish (we used parsley and chives)
How I made it:
Put ½ cup of water in a lidded saucepan and bring to the boil. Pour in ½ glass of white wine and throw in clams and place the lid on tightly. When all of the clam shells are open, turn off the heat. Save the cooking liquor which will act as your stock, and remove the flesh from the shells and set aside. Discard any clams that have not opened and the shells.
In a largish pan on a low-medium heat, melt a knob of butter and cook the onions until very soft, add the garlic cook for a further 30 seconds then add the sweetcorn and turn in the onions.
To the clam liquor in a jug or pan, add cream and another medium-sized cup of water, stir and then pour into the pan with the onions and corn. Stir, and pour in remaining ½ cup of wine and 2 tablespoons of fish sauce or a ladle of fish stock. Cook for 15 minutes, so that it’s gently bubbling to cook the sweet corn through. Add the Coley chunks and cook for a further 5 minutes and then add the cooked clams. Add spinach 1 minute before it’s ready and put lid on to steam.
Season well with salt and pepper and garnish with parsley and chives.
Boiled potatoes and tomato salad. Tabasco for extra seasoning.