Here’s a quick mention about a fun cookery session I recently sat in on at rather swank cooking school, Aveqia. Hosted by the Norwegian Seafood Council with London’s own Scandilicious chef Signe Johansen at the helm, it was a tasty opportunity to discover what makes seafood from Norway so special and delicious while dabbling in a bit of Scandi Christmas tradition too.
Pretty much everything I would be inclined to highlight about this fab event has already been summed up in a spiffy little Hot & Chilli blog post by my cooking partner for the day, Rosana McFee. As Rosana put it, the “simplicity, the array of textures and flavours” of the dishes we learned to prepared were amazing. And to find out that cod for Norway is actually sustainably caught gave me all sorts of hope for guilt-free dining in the near future (salt cod for Christmas anyone?).
One thing I would like to big up here is dill pollen, something I’ve never (knowingly) had before but would love to incorporate into my own cookery. Available in the UK from Global Harvest, it packs a flavoursome wallop. If you like dill, you’ll love dill pollen.
During the session, we made a seafood chowder not too dissimilar to this recipe by Signe:
Bergen Seafood Chowder
For the chowder base:
- 1 small onion, finely diced;
- 1 large carrot, finely diced;
- 1 small fennel, finely diced;
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil;
- 300g cooked Norwegian cold-water prawns, with their shell on;
- 2 litres fish stock;
- 5 allspice berries;
- 2 star anise;
- 2 parsley stalks;
- 1 bay leaf; and
- 2 threads saffron.
For the soup:
- 100ml cooking brandy;
- 1 large leek, thinly sliced;
- 300ml double cream;
- 500g shellfish such as clams, de-bearded mussels, lobster;
- 300g Norwegian cod, sliced into bite-sized chunks;
- 300g cooked new potatoes, sliced in half;
- Sea rosemary as garnish;
- Wild fennel pollen (available from Global Harvest Ltd);
- Chive flowers or borage flowers as a garnish (if in season); and
- 300ml crème fraiche to garnish (optional).
Start by making the chowder base. Sauté the onion, carrot and fennel in a skillet or frying pan over a low heat until soft and translucent. This should take about 5-10 minutes depending on your pan. Peel the prawns and keep the shells, adding the latter to the pan with the sautéed vegetables and fry for about 5 minutes.
Transfer this mixture over to a medium-large saucepan along with the fish stock, allspice berries, star anise, parsley stalks, bay and saffron. Simmer for 30 minutes until the stock looks pale orange from the shells and saffron, and then sieve the stock into a slightly smaller saucepan. Throw away the prawn shells and other flavourings, you won’t need them anymore.
Flambé the brandy or cook off the alcohol in a small saucepan and add this to the stock. Boil this soup base until it has reduced by 1/2 (if the base tastes bland at this stage, keep reducing until the flavour takes on a concentrated seafood note. Every fish stock is different).
Meanwhile, sauté the leek in a little butter until it is soft and add this to the stock, along with the double cream. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add all the seafood – except the prawns – and allow to cook for a further 3-5 minutes until the fish is opaque and the clams or mussels have popped wide open. If they are still closed, simply simmer for another minute or two. If any remain tightly shut then simply get rid of them.
Adjust the seasoning if necessary (the clams and mussels will add extra salinity to this dish), then add the sliced new potatoes, the prawns and serve whilst warm with a garnish of sea rosemary, a sprinkle of wild fennel pollen and any seasonal edible flower you have. An extra dollop of crème fraiche is an indulgent optional topping.
A real winter warmer, the chowder is definitely worth making at home. For more recipes and inspiration on how to cook with high quality Norwegian seafood, check out facebook.com/SeafoodfromNorway.
Aveqia is located at 2 St. Bride Street, EC4A 4AD. Find out more at aveqia.co.uk.