Fleur Sullivan’s seafood chowder recipe

By Lauraine Jacobs In Recipes

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22nd September, 2012 Leave a Comment
Fleur's Moeraki seafood chowder

Photo Duncan Innes/Styling by Kate Arbuthnot

Fleur Sullivan’s seafood chowder was elegantly presented in a wide-lipped fine china bowl. The rich fishy tomato broth brimmed with fresh shellfish and was garnished with a small square of roasted muttonbird and a spoonful of tasty eel pâté. The lunch was served to us on Huka Lodge’s terrace as the nearby Waikato River rushed past on its way to Huka Falls. Our lunch date was a chance to visit the famous Taupo lodge and hear Fleur speak, and taste specialties from her seafood menu at Fleur’s Place in coastal Moeraki, North Otago. Huka began in the 1920s as a tiny spartan fishing lodge beside the river, but over the years it has evolved to the point where it now sets the bar for the string of high-end lodges around the country. It sits at the pricey end of the luxury accommodation spectrum, and although it’s barely accessible to most people, it offers warm Kiwi hospitality to discerning international and local guests.

The kitchen team showcase the best artisan, organic and seasonal ingredients every night, and for those who want a taste of this without the expense of staying at the lodge, dinner is offered by prior arrangement throughout the year. There are also special promotions, such as a winter lunch. Renowned for her rather eccentric life in Otago, Fleur has always offered great hospitality in her various restaurants and hostelries. Ten years ago, she built the rustic Fleur’s Place, one of the country’s most unusual restaurants. Sited next to a fishing wharf, the restaurant sits on a narrow spit that juts out from the North Otago coast by the tiny township of Moeraki.

The rugged coastline is home to all manner of seafood, and there’s a local smokehouse, too. With the restaurant’s proximity to the wharf, it seemed only natural to Fleur to buy catch off the fishing boats that pulled up alongside. However, this was not allowed under the law. To meet legal requirements, Fleur had to buy her own fishing licence. She did, and now she boasts some of the freshest fish served anywhere in the world. So, it’s befitting that when acclaimed cook and TV chef Rick Stein was asked where on the planet he’d like to eat, he chose Fleur’s Place. Other chefs and foodies from all over the world also beat a path to her door for the simply cooked fresh crayfish, eels, shellfish and southern blue cod on her menu. Over our lunch, Fleur shared her cooking memories and stories and her philosophy and passion for great food shone through in every tale. Her seafood chowder was chock-full of southern delicacies: queen scallops, diamond clams, mussels and fresh blue cod. Here’s her recipe.


  • 100g butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 stick celery, diced
  • 100g flour
  • 50g white wine
  • 75g tomato paste
  • 1 litre fish stock
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 250g snapper or blue cod, diced
  • 10 mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 16 diamond clams
  • 10 queen scallops, scrubbed

Melt the butter in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan and add the vegetables. Cook for several minutes over a very low heat, ensuring the vegetables do not brown. Add the flour, stir in well and cook until it has a sandy texture. Slowly add the wine and tomato paste, stirring well to remove any lumps. Heat the stock separately, and add it to the pan, stirring in with the fennel seeds, paprika, bay leaf and thyme. Bring to the boil stirring continuously so the soup does not catch on the bottom. Add all the seafood, then simmer gently for 2-3 minutes until the shells begin to open and the fish is cooked. Ladle into heated bowls and serve with crusty bread. Serves 4-6. Wine match: pinot blanc.

Fish stock tips

Good stock is central to a delicious fish soup or stew and simple to make. Unlike meat and poultry stock, fish stock is simmered for less than 30 minutes. Longer cooking tends to bring out bitterness in the bones. I like to divide my stock into 500ml pottles, keeping a little to freeze in ice-cube-sized containers. That way I have fi sh stock on hand to make a small amount of sauce or broth when cooking for one or two people.

  • 1kg fish frames and heads (gills removed)
  • 300ml white wine
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, chopped
  • 3 sprigs parsley
  • 2 tsp peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 litres water

Rinse the fish frames and heads well in cold water, ensuring the gills and blood are removed. Break and chop the bones into chunks. Place everything in a large stockpot and gently bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve into clean containers, discarding all the solids. Refrigerate or freeze until needed. Makes 2 litres.

FLEUR’S CHOWDER was garnished with a small spoonful of her smoked eel pâté, which inspired me to create my own. I used eel fillets from artisan producers Nicola and Hamish Apatu, who smoke their own fish and make a selection of pâtés at their production plant and shop in Coopers Beach in the Far North. If you can’t find their Apatu Aqua products in specialty stores, they can be ordered through www.kai.co.nz.

22nd September, 2012 Leave a Comment

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