I love fish, do you? New Zealand is slowly becoming awake to the fact that it is an island nation that is surrounded by yummy fish. In my childhood there were fish and chips on Friday night, which was usually lemon fish, and no choice of type of fish. I think the fish mongers sold snapper and cod, and of course whitebait, oysters and crayfish in season. Today when I go into the fish shop or look at the fish stand in the supermarket I am bewildered by the choice. I would dearly love a chef to put a book out on NZ fish or there be a chart or something that can be used so we can match our fish with classic recipes.
Anyways, I was luckier than most my father and grandfather were keen fishermen. Where ever we lived we would in the weekends go with Dad on his fishing sorties. I think to give Mum some peace! I remember snapper and whitebait when we were living in New Plymouth and an encounter with a shark! Yep I was out with Dad in our little yellow tin dingy near the sugarloaf and a shark started to nudge the boat, I was petrified! Needless to say it took me ages before I would go out again. Living in the Waikato there was trout and I learnt to enjoy smoked fish in the smoker Dad built. In the Bay of Plenty, there was flounder and pipis (clams), Toheroas (this was before they were protected). I was a teenager then, and we would build a fire out of driftwood after putting the Contiki out and then digging for Toheroas or gathering pipis depending where we were and having a feed then pulling the line in much later and having whatever was caught with fresh bread that Mum had baked that morning. Wonderful memories.
At the moment Hoki is in season and real cheap. I brought a lot at the fish truck that parks itself nearby every Thursday. Hoki is a wonderful flaky fish and can be quite meaty. It is the favourite for fish and chip meals these days. I had crumbed fish for the last two nights and this morning was looking at the rest thinking I wonder if it fresh still, however, no fish smell, so sorry cats! So Fish Chowder it is for today.
This is more of a method than a recipe, but there are given ingredients no matter how you vary it.
– Fish whatever you have to hand, potatoes, onion, corn, bacon – rind taken off and preferably smoky, milk, vegetable stock or fish stock (I prefer vegetable it is hard to get good fish stock) The variations come in what other vegetables you might add beans, peas etc. Today I added celery, Florence fennel and pumpkin (not a lot and put in at the last minute so the soup wouldn’t go too orange!)
Fry the onion, celery and fennel in a little butter till transparent, add the chopped bacon and fry for a few more moments, then add the potato stock and boil for about 15 minutes. Add the peas, and pumpkin or whatever vegetables you are using. Cook till they are all tender then add the fish and cook till nearly opaque and add milk, taste and season as necessary, heat through and serve. Some people thicken it with corn flour (starch), I prefer a thin milky liquid. I added fennel as a garnish because I had used fennel as an ingredient. Parsley is also a good garnish.
N.B I have not given measurements as it varies each time I make it. But as a guide I made enough for two people, I used ½ onion, 2 rashers of bacon, 1 potato, 1 stick of celery, ½ a fennel bulb, handful of peas and corn. 1 stock cube, and covered everything with water and at the end I usually add the milk to make it the consistency I want.
Other variations – sometimes I use smoked fish instead of bacon.
I used fennel today for the first time, as I am the proud grower of Florence Fennel. I have tried a number of times and have failed! This year success! It gives the soup an extra special something and strangely it lost the strong aniseed flavour. There was just a hint.