What does one eat in the Antarctic? In our fourth digital issue Wendy Trusler and Carol Devine their share culinary experiences, provisions lists and Victorian explorer menus from their fascinating book The Antarctic Book of Cooking and Cleaning, including this recipe for a warming seafood chowder
In 1996, Carol Devine and Wendy Trusler led volunteer groups for The Joint Russian-Canadian Ecological Project at Bellinghausen station on the Antarctic peninsula. People from five countries paid to pick up 28 years of rubbish during their holiday on a continent uniquely devoted to peace and science. The Antarctic Book of Cooking and Cleaning is a journey through that austral summer. It is also a look at the challenges of cooking in a makeshift kitchen.
The book unfolds in the style of Antarctic publications such as Sir Ernest Shackleton’s handmade Aurora Australis, through provision lists, menu plans, journals and letters.
Whenever the volunteers' Russian neighbours’ catch was particularly bountiful Wendy, the site cook, made this chowder.
225g/8oz slab bacon
1 celery stalk
6 medium potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
3 to 4 ears of corn (about 3 cups corn kernels)
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 tablespoon salt
1 bay leaf 900g/310oz cod fillet, (or some other white fish)
1.5 litres water
350ml whipping cream
freshly ground pepper
Finely chop the onions, dice the celery and potatoes and remove corn kernels from the cob. Dice the bacon then cook it in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over a medium heat, stirring often, until lightly browned at the edges.This should take about two minutes.Add the onions and celery to the pot and cook over a low heat until soft, for about five minutes.
Melt the butter and stir in the thyme and salt.When the herbs have warmed thoroughly, mix in the potatoes and cook until they are slightly softened. Stir in the corn and let it cook for a minute or two then bring up the heat, add the bay leaf and pour in the water. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Cut the fish into good-sized chunks and add to the pot once the potatoes are tender. Gently cook the fish until it pulls apart easily, which should take five minutes. Stir in the cream and cook just long enough to bring everything up to heat.Add freshly ground pepper to taste.
Note: We strongly encourage using sustainable seafood for this recipe. The Madrid Protocol on Environmental Protection, signed in 1991 and entered into force in 1998, prohibits disrupting wildlife. While the kind of small-scale fishing some of us partook in was not yet a breach in 1996, we are aware it was a grey zone and in hindsight are uncomfortable with this.