Kirsten Gilmour is the owner and head chef at Aviemore’s Mountain Café. This recipe comes from her new book, The Mountain Café Cookbook: a Kiwi in the Cairngorms, which is published this week.

“This recipe came from an original Kiwi recipe and has evolved, with many changes along the way, to become the famous Mountain Café Fish Chowder. We took it off the menu one summer and there was local anarchy to the point where we had a couple of angry emails – I’m too scared to take it off the menu again! It’s a great way of using some sexy Scottish ingredients that we have on our doorstep,” says Kirsten.

Recipe tips:

When preparing lemongrass, you want to keep it as a single piece as you need to remove it from the pan before blitzing. Cut it in half lengthways but stop before you get to the bottom, leaving the bulb intact. Then use a small pan or a kitchenmallet to bruise it – this helps let all the flavour out.

• This will keep in the fridge for four days: just put it into a tub once you’ve blitzed it but before you’ve added the fish. Then, when you want to eat it, add the fish to the cold soup in the pan and gently reheat it over a medium low heat. The fish will cook as the soup heats up.

Smoked Fish Chowder

Serves 4-6


1 hour and 10 minutes

1 tablespoon olive oil

50g salted butter

1 medium onion, roughly chopped

½ medium carrot, roughly chopped

1 celery stalk, roughly chopped

½ leek, roughly chopped

1 handful chives, chopped

1 handful parsley, stalks and all, chopped

1 lemongrass stalk, almost halved lengthways

1 lemon, zested and halved

175ml white wine

300g potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped

1 litre fish stock (or 2 fish stock cubes dissolved in 1 litre

hot water)

250ml double cream

150g fresh salmon, skinned and cut into chunks

150g smoked haddock, skinned and cut into chunks

4 dill sprigs, chopped

4 strips smoked salmon or some thinly sliced fennel to garnish

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over a medium high heat. Add the butter, onions, carrot, celery, leek, chives, parsley, lemongrass, lemon zest and lemon halves and sauté until the vegetables have started to soften without taking on any colour. Stir in the wine and bring to a rolling boil, then leave, stirring occasionally, until the wine has reduced by a half – about five minutes. Add the potatoes and fish stock and bring back to the boil, then leave to simmer on a medium heat until the potatoes are soft (about 40 minutes).

When the potatoes are cooked, use tongs to remove the lemon halves and the lemongrass and discard.

Take off the heat and blitz the chowder until smooth, then add the cream and blitz again. Gently stir in the fish and the dill, and put back over a medium-low heat until the fish is just cooked. Serve straight away with each bowl garnished with a strip of smoked salmon or some thinly sliced fennel.

Sometimes we finish with a swirl of natural yoghurt and a few fennel leaves as well.