“The Autumn slipped across your skin
Got something in my eye
A light that doesn’t need to live
And doesn’t need to die
A riddle in the book of love
Obscure and obsolete
Till witnessed here in time and blood
A thousand kisses deep”
Extract from Thousand Kisses Deep, Leonard Cohen
I’m reading a book of poetry, well poetry and lyrics by Leonard Cohen. It’s incredible how many of the words to the songs we know, or we think we know are blurred in the mind until read. Out loud. And then they tear themselves off the page and leap up, sometimes fussily or clumsily. Some haunt, some embarrass. I’m skimming over his work, it’s dark and real. I ask is it Leonard the temperamental artist who can love and cuss and live life and loss with such intensity? Or, is it the life as lived by everyone around us? Behind closed doors. No one knows of a thing until someone updates a Facebook status.
Am I saying that I have lived a life devoid of drama and that I can not relate? No great losses, noisy, messy, heaving mass of life that is testimony of a grande, well-worn life?
Well, I’m saying no such thing. For now, right this moment, I am an observer.
Have a listen to the song, and have some warm, comforting Smoked Haddock Chowder. It goes best with a dose of Leonard Cohen.
P.s the song starts at the second chapter of the poem, and doesn’t include the stanza I quoted. Also it contains verses not in the published poem too. Odd, but hey, very Cohen.
This chowder is complemented with lemon zest, added close to the end of cooking. Smoked haddock and sweet corn kernels are such a lovely contrast. Serve with creme fraiche for extra indulgence. You needn’t add the carrots but it adds colour, sweetness and bulks up the soup slightly. By all means use haddock that hasn’t been smoked if you can’t find it easily.
2 medium onions, diced finely
30 ml olive oil
5 cloves garlic, chopped finely
3 T butter
3T plain flour
750 ml milk
2 carrots , peeled and diced
4 medium potatoes, washed, skinned and diced, covered in water
*reserve 1 cup of potato water*
410 g can whole kernel corn
1/2 t nutmeg
1 t white pepper
500 g smoked haddock, skinned and cut into bite size chunks
salt, to taste
1 lemon, zested, plus extra for serving
fresh thyme (optional)
creme fraiche, to serve
Heat a large pot on medium heat and add the oil and onions. Fry till translucent and soft.
Add garlic and stir, to avoid burning.
Make a ‘well’ in the centre by pushing the onions and garlic to the sides. Add butter and flour and cook till starting to brown very slightly, stirring all the while.
Add 250 ml milk and the cup of reserved water from the soaking potatoes. Turn heat up very slightly. Use a small whisk to stir to avoid lumps forming and be mindful of splattering.
Add another 250 ml milk, stir well as it thickens and add potato and carrots.
Cook until potatoes soften (add more milk if necessary).
Add corn, nutmeg, pepper and salt and remainder of milk and stir well. Turn heat down to simmer or low.
Add lemon zest and haddock chunks.
When haddock is cooked through, add fresh thyme if using. Check seasoning. Add more salt and pepper if preferred.
Serve with creme fraiche and more lemon zest.