British seaside chowder with saffron

This quick, simple soup works wonderfully with all sorts of local seafood, so throw in whatever is readily available.


  • 300ml/10½fl oz white wine
  • 1kg/2lb 4oz mixed shellfish, such as cockles, clams, mussels and winkles, cleaned and soaked in cold water
  • 50g/1¾oz unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, finely chopped
  • ½ leek, white part only, finely chopped
  • 250g/9oz waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into 5mm/¼in cubes
  • 2 pinches saffron strands
  • 1 star anise
  • 500ml/18 fl oz chicken stock
  • 175ml/6fl oz double cream
  • 75g/2½oz samphire
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, skin and seeds removed
  • 12 shelled cooked whelks
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh chives
  • handful celery leaves, finely chopped
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation method

  1. Bring the wine to the boil in a large lidded saucepan. Add the shellfish, cover the pan with the lid, reduce the heat until the wine is simmering, and simmer the shellfish for 3-5 minutes, or until all the shells have opened (discard any that do not open).

  2. Drain the shellfish, reserving the cooking liquor in a bowl. When the shellfish is cool enough to handle, pick the meat from the shells.

  3. Heat the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic and fry for 1-2 minutes, or until softened. Add the fennel, leek, potatoes, saffron and star anise and fry for a further 1-2 minutes.

  4. Add the reserved cooking liquor and the chicken stock and bring the mixture to the boil. Reduce the heat until the mixture is simmering and simmer for 3-4 minutes, or until the potato cubes are just tender.

  5. Add the cream and samphire and continue to simmer for 1-2 minutes, or until the soup has thickened slightly. Reduce the heat to low, then add the tomatoes and shellfish meat, including the whelks. Heat until the meat is warmed through.

  6. Stir in the chives and celery leaves, season, to taste, with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper, then serve.

Top recipe tip

Tip 1: If you are using clams and mussels, remove the beards before cooking. Discard any shellfish whose shells do not open during cooking.
Tip 2: To remove the tomato skins, make a cross in the bottom of the tomatoes, place them into boiling water for 30 seconds, then transfer to ice-cold water; the skins should loosen enough to be pulled off.

James Martin recipes from James Martin: Home Comforts

Less than 30 mins preparation time

10 to 30 mins cooking time

Serves 4

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