Try this British spin on a San Francisco classic: cockle chowder in a Bread Bowl
By Ruby Rasa
When the sun comes out, I start thinking about road trips. Every time I gas up my car, and the display tells me I can now travel 500 miles before having to stop again, my mind runs wild with the possibilities. I can’t help it – road trips are in my blood.
Growing up, our favourite (and mine still) was to drive the snaking coastal Highway 101 all the way from Seattle to Los Angeles. Day 3 was always a gastronomic wonder, starting with a lumberjack breakfast in the Northern California redwoods, lunching picnic-style among the vineyards north of Napa and, finally, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge in time for a sunset dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf. The San Francisco classic: clam chowder in a bread bowl.
I have recreated it here in the UK, with a few regional substitutions. Sourdough bread bowls are hard to find, so I take what I can get. Instead of clams I use more local cockles. And finally, instead of sitting ‘on the dock of the bay’, I carry a flask of chowder, a bread bowl and a rug to the top of the Chiltern Hills, where I am consoled by the sweeping view over the soft-focus English countryside.
But with every spoonful, if I close my eyes, I swear I can hear the foghorns in the distance.
- 3 sticks celery
- 1 onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- ½kg / 1 lb new potatoes
- 2 rashers streaky bacon (optional)
- 500ml / 2 cups stock (fish, vegetable or chicken)
- 100g / ¾ cup butter
- 75g / ¾ cup plain flour
- 600ml / 2½ cups single cream (half and half)
- 100ml / ½ cup semi-skimmed milk
- 100ml / ½ cup dry white wine
- 300g / 10oz shelled cockles (or 3 standard jars, drained)
- 2 tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- 1 round, crusty bread roll per person
- Handful of parsley, chopped, to garnish
- In a food processor, finely chop the celery, onion, garlic and potatoes put them into a large saucepan.
- Cut the bacon into short strips and add to the pot, then cover with the stock and boil gently for 20 minutes.
- In another saucepan, melt the butter then add the flour, stirring it into a nutty brown roux. Slowly whisk in the cream and milk, then the wine.
- Stir the sauce into the vegetable pot, add the cockles and season to taste.
- Carefully cut off the tops of the bread rolls and gently hollow out the insides without breaking the crust.
- Ladle some chowder into each bowl, garnish with parsley and serve along with the lids for dipping.
Curious about her British mother's seemingly bizarre love of cheese & onion sandwiches, Ruby moved to England and discovered an island full of people eating them. She now lives among them, works as a freelance writer and photographer and yes, occasionally enjoys a good cheese & onion.