Sweetcorn and clam chowder, by Madalene Bonvini-Hamel

13 September 2012
Sweetcorn and clam chowder, by Madalene Bonvini-Hamel

(Serves six as a starter)

For the sweetcorn
4 large fresh corn cobs
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

For the steamed clams
1kg fresh palourde clams in shell, cleaned
80g onion, finely sliced
80g leek, finely sliced
2 large fresh parsley sprigs
2 large fresh rosemary sprigs
400ml dry white wine

For the sweetcorn and clam soup
2tbs rapeseed oil
300g potatoes, peeled and finely sliced
120g onion, finely diced
100g celery, finely diced
100g leek, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
50g smoked streaky bacon, finely diced
About 500g cooked sweetcorn kernels (from the cooked cobs above)
400ml clam cooking liquor (from steaming the clams above)
1.2 litres fish stock
200ml double cream

For the sweetcorn, potato and bacon garnish
1tbs rapeseed oil
100g smoked streaky bacon, finely diced
100g potatoes, peeled and cut into 5mm dice
150ml fish stock
100g cooked sweetcorn kernels (from the cooked cobs above)

First, cook the sweetcorn. I tend to cook mine in a microwave, but I know some prefer to cook it in unsalted boiling water. Remove the husks and silk from the corn, wash and drain the cobs, then season with salt and pepper. Wrap each cob in wet kitchen paper, place in the microwave and cook on high for eight minutes (cooking time may vary depending on your microwave).

Once the cooking time is complete, leave them in the microwave for a further 8 minutes. Remove from the microwave, then carefully remove the cooked kernels from the cobs using a serrated knife. Set 100g cooked kernels aside for the garnish and the rest (about 500g) are used for the soup.

While the sweetcorn is cooking, steam the clams. Place a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid over a high heat and, once it is hot, add the clams, onion, leek, herbs and salt and pepper to the pan. Add the wine, then cover and cook over a high heat for 2-3 minutes or until the clams are steamed open. Remove from the heat and drain the cooking liquor through a sieve. Reserve the cooking liquor (you need about 400ml) and clams and discard the vegetables and herbs. Keep 18 clams in their shells for the garnish and pick the meat from the rest of the shells (discard any clams that remain closed). Set aside.

Next, prepare the soup. Heat the rapeseed oil in a large saucepan until hot, add the potatoes, onion, celery, leek, garlic, bacon and salt and pepper, then cover and sweat over a low heat for 8 minutes. Remove the lid, increase the heat and cook for a further 2 minutes or until the vegetables are softened and the bacon is cooked. Add the reserved picked cooked clam meat, the sweetcorn kernels and clam cooking liquor and cook for 3 minutes, then add the fish stock, cover and bring the soup to a gentle simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, then add the cream and bring the soup back to a simmer for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and use a Thermomix or blender to blend the soup until it is very smooth. Gently reheat the soup until piping hot and adjust the seasoning to taste.

Meanwhile, prepare the garnish. Heat the rapeseed oil in a small saucepan, then add the bacon and potatoes with a little salt and pepper and sauté over a medium heat for about six minutes or until golden brown. Add the stock, then cover and simmer for a further six minutes or until the potatoes are cooked. Stir in the sweetcorn kernels and reheat gently until hot.

To serve, ladle the hot soup into warm bowls and spoon the hot garnish and reserved clams in their shells on top. Serve immediately with warm crusty bread and butter.

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