Chef Lu Varley recipe — shrimp and corn chowder

THIS week's recipe is a chowder. The word chowder may have originated from Breton fisherman who brought the custom to Newfoundland where it spread to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and New England.

A simple dish of chowder, in the past, was considered to be poor man's food and has a history that is centuries old.

According to some historians, the word chowder was coined long before the pilgrims sighted Cape Cod. Fishermen from all various parts of Europe were hunting the fertile waters of Newfoundland. In their multilingual gatherings, the French word chaudiere (the pot in which the French fisherman made their stews) was changed in translation to chowder.

In those early chowders there was no milk (the nearest cows were hundreds of miles away) and certainly no potatoes. This was several centuries before the potato would complete its triangular journey from South America to Europe to North America, yet we would recognise the dish. Salt pork provided fat, onions added flavour and ships biscuits thickened the stew teeming with cod and clams. Today most chowders do not include biscuits but generally have crackers sprinkled on top.

The addition of tomatoes was likely the work of Italian and Portuguese immigrants and a chef from New York published a recipe for tomato-laced chowder in 1889.

New Englanders, staunchly loyal to their milky version, as late as 1939 a bill was introduced in Maine making it a statutory offence to put tomatoes in chowder.

Elsewhere the word chowder is used for a variety of soups with ingredients ranging from salmon to corn. A chowder may be defined for its chunkiness.


6 people

2 tbsp olive oil

1 finely chopped onion

50g butter

50g flour

3/4 litre chicken stock

¼ litre milk

200g cooked prawns

1 can sweet corn

1 can creamed corn

2 sliced pancetta

salted crackers

cayenne pepper

small tub single cream


1.Heat the olive oil in a saucepan, add the onion and cook over a low heat until softened about five to 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in another sauce pan, add the flour and stir with a wire whisk, cook for about one to two minutes. Pour in the stock and milk slowly and stir to blend. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, cook for five to 10 minutes stirring frequently.

3. Add the corn to the onion, remove the pan from the heat, stir in the prawns, add the sauce mixture to the prawn and corn mixture, stir well. Add the cream and stir to blend, adjust the seasoning, add cayenne and sprinkle the chopped crackers when serving. Chop and fry the pancetta until crispy and use as a garnish.