We were anchored in Thailand off a lovely island called Koh Phayam, just below the Myanmar (Burma) border. It was high season in Thailand at the time but even then, Koh Phayam was a quiet, idyllic place. Nowhere was too busy. There are no cars on Koh Phayam, just motorbikes, bicycles and the odd tractor.
We spent our days watching the brahminy kites and white belly sea eagles soaring overhead in search for their dinner, and we would catch sight of the hornbill birds as they flew amongst the trees on the nearby shoreline. From the advantageous location of our comfy hammocks we watched the bait fish jumping out of the water as the predators close in on them. How peaceful… could it get any better than this?… Seafood lunch perhaps?
On one of these “peaceful idyllic” days Dwayne visited a local fishing boat that had dropped its anchor nearby. He returned with a large bag of school prawns and some baby squid. The fishermen wouldn’t accept any money, so Dwayne took some beers over to them. They must have been impressed with the beers as they then presented him with two good sized cuttlefish, some crabs and a pile of huge prawns!
Dwayne cooked the crabs and prawns in salt water. We then chilled them before we devoured them, for lunch, with a little homemade seafood sauce.
For the seafood sauce… I simply mixed Kewpie mayonnaise with tomato ketchup. I didn’t measure the ingredients, I just did it to taste. It’s simple but delicious and the prawns were sooooo fresh!
Goolwa cockles otherwise known as pipis are bivalve molluscs, similar in their two shelled structure to a clam, or mussel. A popular place to gather pipis is Goolwa Beach in South Australia. They are not only, and exclusively, at this beach, but on a nice summer day, Goolwa beach will often be busy with swimmers, surfers and people gathering cockles. Some people use them as bait but many others are now cooking them and making delicious meals of steamed cockles in white wine and garlic, rich marinara sauces or, like me, putting them in a creamy seafood chowder for that little touch of something different.
We are currently visiting family and friends in Adelaide, South Australia, and really, what is more Australian, more South Australian and more Goolwanian than a day at the beach gathering cockles…. not much. Dwayne, myself and two of our boys were joined by friend’s Sarah and Phil May, and their children plus other friends and family.
While I found it difficult to get in the cold water like the rest of them, surfing and boogie boarding, I did manage to get in deep enough to start hunting for cockles. Collecting the cockles is really very simple. You simply dig your feet into the sand and as the water washes around your feet and the wave ebbs, the sand is washed away and your feet sink deeper into the sand. When you feel the cockles beneath your feet and bend down to scoop them up. Put the cockles into a bucket or esky (i.e. chilly bin, cooler, icebox). The cockles then need to be encouraged to purge or spit out all their sand. The purging occurs when the cockles are kept in the bucket or an esky with fresh clean seawater for at least 24 hours. This is easy if you are near a beach and can replenish and freshen the seawater regularly.
So once my cockles were purged I set about making a creamy seafood chowder which I then served in a toasted bread roll bowl. Yummo!
This is what you will need…
2 slices bacon, finely chopped
1 large leek, finely sliced
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/3 cup plain flour
4 cups fish stock
500g white fish, chopped into cubes
400g prawns, peeled
1kg Goolwa cockles
1/3 cup parsley, chopped
Salt and cracked black pepper
4-6 bread rolls
And this is what I did…
To make a bread roll serving bowl I sliced the top off each bread roll and set it aside to use as the lid. Then I dug out the inner soft bread and baked the rolls, and their lids, in a moderate oven until they are hard & crispy (about 10-15 minutes).
For the chowder…
I heated the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Added the bacon and cooked over low heat for about 5 minutes. I then added onion, carrot, celery, potato and cooked for 5 minutes or until softened (do not brown).
Next, I added the flour and cooked for one minute. Then I gradually added the fish stock and cooked while stirring for about five minutes or until mixture boiled and thickened. I let it simmer over low heat for another five minutes uncovered while I stirred occasionally.
I then added the seafood and simmered again while stirring occasionally. I added the cream and simmered for another 5 minutes without letting it boil. I then seasoned with salt and cracked pepper and tossed in a handful of chopped parsley.
I ladled the soup between the toasted rolls and served immediately.
Note: I have made this recipe with fish and lobster that we caught while camping at Canunda National Park, and I have used fish, scallops and squid that we caught at Stansbury while anchored there. At home, I have used a marinara mix or a mix of prawns, fish, scallops and mussels. Any mix of seafood is great in this chowder.