Recently, a treasure dropped from the mailperson’s hands and into my mailbox, courtesy of Nimbus Publishing. I tore into the envelope, curious at the unexpected arrival and was quite pleased to find Liz Feltham’s newest offering, Chowders and Soups. Locals may remember her as the long-standing restaurant critic of the Halifax weekly The Coast. This is a really smart offering of chowders, some international in flair like the traditional Italian fish soup Zuppa de Pesce (page 62), as well as some that are a bit closer to home like the Classic Maritime Seafood Chowder (page 4). What each of the soups has in common is Feltham’s attention to detail and love of the Maritimes: Each showcases local ingredients.
The recipes are accompanied by colourful photos and creative; the aerial shot of a steaming bowl of soup – the ubiquitous Photograph of Soup – is broken up by photos of raw ingredients and a great mix of dishes that I now covet. Liz achieves what all cookbook writers should strive for, at least if they are attempting to make happy: A recipe is a guideline for your imagination, it is meant to help you along but there are just the beginning and as Feltham writes in her introduction, “Don’t be afraid to experiment and make each recipe your own”.
The first recipe I tried was the Tomato Squid Chowder (page 27). I love squid and I’d picked up a bag of need-to-use-these-now tomatoes the day before, so the arrival of the cookbook was rather serendipitous. The chowder is a classic tomato-based chowder and taking Feltham’s cue I added some corn and a couple of bay leaves to the simmering concoction. It was really, really good. We had it for lunch, accompanied by grilled cheese sandwiches and the kids ate very last spoonful of the soup. A succes. Like most of the recipes in the book, this chowder could be made quickly for a mid-day meal without a lot of fuss and bother. This is the true success of the cookbook, Feltham has managed to create 50 recipes that are accessible to any level of home chef and if you are strapped for time you could definitely make any number of the recipes on a weeknight.
I am looking forward to the Chilled Strawberry Soup with Black Pepper, as soon as I get a basket of strawberries in our CSA. I do not doubt that local berries are essential for this hot weather soup. One small quibble I have with the otherwise lovely Chowders and Soups is that there isn’t an ingredient index included at the end. It makes scanning through a cookbook that much easier if you have a raw ingredient taking up too much space in the fridge. Feltham more than makes up for this with Stock Recipes appendix where you can find the recipe for all soup, which are the absolute foundation of any quality soup. The glossary, while short offers a quick and dirty list of terms used throughout the text.
I highly recommend Soups and Chowders, particularly because of its versatility – there is something for every season so it won’t sit on your shelf until cold weather. Liz Feltham is knowledgeable and this comes across in each of the handpicked recipes. A definite must for any home chef as she calls all of us folks who enjoy that time spent at the stove.
A huge thank you to Anne at Nimbus Publishing for sending Chowders and Soups my way. If you are looking to meet the once elusive Liz Feltham, you can on Saturday, June 2 at Chapters in Bayers Lake (12-130pm); June 6 at IndigoSpirit in Sunnyside Mall (1-3pm) and June 8 at Coles in Scotia Square (12-2pm). As always, have a look in your local bookstore for a copy.