Sometimes humble dishes deserve an upgrade. This seafood chowder is a favourite in Norway and you find many variations with different types of seafood, vegetables and garnishes. As you will see, the dish requires a little extra time and effort and some very good seafood, but the reward is an utterly delicious, warming treat any time of the year. The best potatoes to serve in this chowder are new potatoes, and they're particularly good when kept from the day before, so cook up a large batch in advance and serve in this dish.
Start by making the chowder base. Sauté the onion, carrot and fennel in a skillet or frying pan over a low heat until soft and translucent. This should take about 5-10 minutes depending on your pan. Peel the prawns and keep the shells, adding the latter to the pan with the sautéed vegetables and fry for about 5 minutes.
Transfer this mixture over to a medium-large saucepan along with the fish stock, allspice berries, star anise, parsley stalks, bay and saffron. Simmer for 30 minutes until the stock looks pale orange from the shells and saffron, and then sieve the stock into a slightly smaller saucepan. Throw away the prawn shells and other flavourings, you won't need them anymore.
Flambé the brandy or cook off the alcohol in a small saucepan and add this to the stock. Boil this soup base until it has reduced by 1/2 (if the base tastes bland at this stage, keep reducing until the flavour takes on a concentrated seafood note. Every fish stock is different).
Meanwhile, sauté the leek in a little butter until it is soft and add this to the stock, along with the double cream. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add all the seafood - except the prawns - and allow to cook for a further 3-5 minutes until the fish is opaque and the clams or mussels have popped wide open. If they are still closed, simply simmer for another minute or two. If any remain tightly shut then simply get rid of them.
Adjust the seasoning if necessary (the clams and mussels will add extra salinity to this dish), then add the sliced new potatoes, the prawns and serve whilst warm with a garnish of sea rosemary, a sprinkle of wild fennel pollen and any seasonal edible flower you have. An extra dollop of crème fraiche is an indulgent optional topping.