No.1 The Strand Chef
As I mentioned the other week, it's certainly weather for soups and stews. And soups can be made quite economically and easily at a fraction of the cost of store-bought canned or packet soups.
Don't get me started on the instant packet soups full of salt, flavour enhancers and instant thickeners.
The time you spend making your own soup is always worth the effort because you know what goes into it and you can make as much as you need and refrigerate or freeze any surplus for another rainy day.
One of my all-time favourite soups is a seafood chowder. Because this is quite costly to make, this week's recipe is a mussel and leek chowder.
It's a great way to warm yourself up and make those dollars stretch further.
So why not go and purchase a big bag of fresh mussels to get you started?
I always go to visit the friendly ladies at Sanford at Sulphur Point.
The leeks are in season, of course, coupled with a few spuds, some seasoning, herbs and most importantly my secret ingredient.
For that creamy taste and less fat in your soups, try evaporated skim milk. It's a great essential to have in the pantry.
Creamy mussel and leek chowder (gluten free)
3kg-5kg bag fresh mussels
1 large white onion, sliced
70g-100g of butter
3 large agria potatoes, peeled and diced
6 leeks, cleaned and chopped to the green part
2 Tbsp fennel seed, crushed
1 large fennel bulb, sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
Sea salt flakes to taste
1-2 Tbsp cracked pepper
1 can evaporated skim milk
In a large pot slowly saute leek and fennel bulb and onion in butter for about 15 minutes until sweated down. Add garlic, ground fennel seeds, black pepper and salt and diced potatoes.
Cover leek and potatoes with water and bring to the boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, clean and remove beards from mussels and give them a good scrub.
Once the leek and potato mix is ready blend well in a mixer or food processor. Transfer back into a clean pot. Add mussels and almost the whole can of evaporated skim milk. Stir well until they begin to open.
This is the tricky bit: remove the mussels once they've opened and place in a separate bowl to cool slightly. I use long-handled tongs or a slotted spoon for this task.
Scrape out the mussel meat using half of a mussel shell. Chop roughly into chunks.
Rinse the shells and the bowl with a little water and evaporated skim milk.
Return this and chopped mussels to the pot. Discard any mussels that haven't opened after five minutes of simmering.
Add seasoning and chopped parsley, and serve. It's delicious way to warm up this winter.