I’ve mentioned before (eg when I shared my white sangria) that I often find St Patrick’s Day a bit over-done, but when our posting day for Fish Friday Foodies falls ON the day, I can understand why Heather found it hard to resist! After a bit of digging for ideas, I decided to make an Irish fish chowder, and it was such a delicious choice. With a bit of smokiness from the bacon and smoked haddock, plenty of fish and a creamy broth, it’s a tasty comforting bowl. It’s also really easy to make.
Believe it or not, despite being surrounded by water, fish is not actually that common in Irish cooking. There are many reasons, but over time fish became associated with the poor. It’s only more recently that it has become more popular again. Now towns like Dublin and Galway are making the most of their seafood and you’ll see it highlighted in eg the Galway Oyster Festival.
What distinguishes an Irish fish chowder?
Most fish chowders have a relatively similar base of fish, potatoes, onions, stock and cream. After that, things can vary. Most New England versions use salt pork and use white fish such as cod or haddock. An Irish chowder generally uses a mix of fresh and smoked fish, with the fresh fish often a combination of white fish and salmon. Most use bacon, with the odd ones going a bit fancy with pancetta. You’ll see mussels in some but not in others. Given I love mussels, I for one wasn’t going to miss them out. New England chowders also tend to be fairly thick, while only a few Irish versions will thicken the base.
How it’s made
This fish chowder is really pretty easy and quick to make. You start by cooking the onion and bacon a bit, add the potatoes then pour in the stock, along with some herbs. Cook for a few minutes until the potatoes are tender but not falling apart. Add the fish and let it cook in the stock for a few minutes before adding the cream. It’s then ready to serve and enjoy. You might want to make some soda bread rolls to go alongside and mop up all the flavorful broth.
I know it’s getting towards the end of true soup season, but this Irish fish chowder is light enough to be enjoyed any time. Full of fantastic flavor, packed with fish and gently creamy, it’s a wonderfully tasty lunch or start to a meal.
- 1 small onion
- 2oz/60g smoked bacon (streaky)
- 8oz/225g potatoes
- ½tbsp butter
- ¼tsp dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- salt and pepper
- 3cups/720ml fish stock (or a light stock, if you don't have)
- 6oz/160g smoked haddock
- 6oz/160g haddock or cod
- 4.5oz/125g salmon
- 7oz/200g mussels
- ½cup/120ml heavy cream/ double cream
- 1tbsp chopped parsley
- Finely dice the onion, thinly slice the bacon and peel and dice the potatoes into around ½in/1cm dice.
- Melt the butter in a medium pot over a medium heat and add the onion. Soften for a minute or two then add the bacon. Cook around 5 minutes until bacon is cooked but not browning and onion is translucent.
- Add the potatoes, cook a minute then add the thyme, bay leaf and stock. Season with a little salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and simmer for around 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are cooked but not falling apart (they'll be just tender to a knifepoint).
- As it's simmering, dice all the fish in roughly bite-sized pieces, removing any skin, and wash the mussels. Once the potatoes are tender, add the smoked haddock, haddock, salmon and mussels to the pot. Gently push the fish and mussels under the stock and cook for another 5 minutes until the fish is cooked and the mussels open up. Discard any mussels that don't open.
- Remove from the heat, add the cream and parsley and serve.
- Note - you can use a different mix of fish, as you prefer, and increase the potato and/or stock. If you don't use all and need to reheat at a later point, make sure you only warm and don't boil.
See all the other Irish-inspired recipes being shared for today’s Fish Friday Foodies: