Chowder seems to be one of those dishes that causes fisticuffs between one town and another. It is, perhaps, the vanilla slice of New England and Atlantic Canada, with each chowder-maker laying claim to the definitive recipe. The word itself apparently has roots in the Latin word from which we get the word cauldron, and also in the old English word jowter – a fish peddler. I’m particularly fond of jowter, as I can imagine a portly chap merrily tending his chowder, jowls gently swaying to match the pace of his stirs.
There are many variants of the chowder – be they thickened with broken up crackers, potatoes, corn, flour or cheese; thick or thin; award-winning or “award-winning”. There is also a tomato-based version, known as a Manhattan Clam Chowder, that is apparently such an abomination according to the 1940s chowder aficionado Eleanor Early that it is not to be mentioned in the same breath as New England Clam Chowder.
Most chowder recipes include some sort of thickening agent that isn’t conducive to someone trying to limit their carbohydrate intake, so I figured I’d take on the likes of Ms Early and throw my jowls in the ring to come up with a recipe that suits my belly.
(For what it’s worth, I started eating low-carb at the start of the year in an attempt to get my reactive hypoglycaemia under control. Not only has it cured me of it, it has also cured my IBS symptoms. It’s like magic. Delicious cheesy, meaty, broccoli laden magic.)
I use cauliflower and xanthan gum as thickeners here, but the xanthan gum is optional – you could easily forgo it for a slightly thinner soup (the cauliflower gives two short planks a run for their money) or even substitute some cornflour mixed with water. The recipe is suitable for people with wheat intolerance, and anyone wanting to limit their carbohydrate intake. The onion and cream are obviously not great for someone on a FODMAP restricted diet, but I’ve personally found that choosing low-carb dairy options (for example using full fat cream instead of milk) naturally limits the amount of lactose in my diet given that lactose=sugar=carbohydrate, and I’m happily chowing down on such things with no belly dodginess.
This recipe can be easily tweaked for your household carb lovers by adding some boiled potatoes to theirs, and it gets a big thumbs up from my resident carb-head. So, while my recipe may succeed in uniting feuding chowder towns to turn against my travesty to all they hold dear, I will have reinforcements and won’t be an easy target on the couch in a hypoglycaemic quivering mess.
4 as a main dish. Refrigerate any leftovers and reheat to eat within a couple of days.
Nutritional information (per serve):
530 calories, 9 g net carbs, 33 g fat, 45 g protein. If you want even lower carbs, replace the scallops with more fish and reduce the amount of onion.
- 3 rashers middle bacon, chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 small carrot, chopped
- 1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1-2 bay leaves
- freshly ground pepper (few grinds of the mill)
- 1-2 tsp ground smoked paprika
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1-1.5 cups water
- 100 mL sour cream
- 200 mL whipping cream (heavy cream in the US)
- 400 g cauliflower, chopped
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
- 2Tb fresh parsley, chopped
- 1/4 tsp xanthan gum (optional thickener, generally found in the health food section of the supermarket)
- 4 serves seafood (I used ~450g firm white fish, and ~250g scallops)
- I don’t have a large enough pot with a good base for frying, so I do the first two steps in a frying pan then switch over to a pot, but please use the same pot for both if you are better appliance endowed than I.
- Fry off the bacon over a low-medium heat until well cooked and most of the fat has come out. Remove bacon, reserving the fat in the pan. I know it’s hard, but don’t eat the bacon yet.
- Turn up heat to medium and add the chopped onion to the pan, frying until slightly softened. Add carrot and celery and fry until all softened and there is a bit of colour on it all. Add the chopped garlic to fry off for the last minute.
- Add the chicken stock, water, paprika, pepper, bay leaves, sour cream and cream. Mix well, reduce heat and leave to simmer for around 20 minutes (can leave longer if you like, but keep an eye on the liquid levels – you may want to add more liquid, and cover the pot).
- While the soup is simmering, steam your cauliflower until soft then add it to the soup.
- Remove soup from the heat, take out the bay leaves and add the thyme. Puree the soup using a stick blender or equivalent.
- Add the parsley and bacon to the soup (reserving some for a garnish if you like) and return it to the heat, and add xanthan gum (if using) by lightly sprinkling over the surface and mixing through very well.
- Add your seafood, according to length of cooking (eg. I put my big scallops in first, then my chopped fish a minute or two later, then turned off the heat after another 4-5 minutes if that). Check your seafood for opacity to see when it is done.
- Garnish with any reserved bacon and parsley, and serve.