mussel chowder with smoked red pepper in sourdough bread

Many years ago on my big ‘drive-across- America’ trip, we ended up in San Fransisco where, amongst other things, I fell in love with clam chowder.  A soup unknown to me at the time, eaten at Fishermans’s Wharf straight out of a loaf of sourdough, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

So that food memory is the inspiration behind this soup with mussels replacing the clams. I decided to add the very delicious and special smoked red pepper sprinkle.  A wonderful and unique product I developed when I had my cold smoking food business. It imparts a slightly sweet and smoky flavour to this rich, creamy soup.

a very thick and chunky soup when served in the bread

What you need to make this:

  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1 leek finely chopped
  • 1 stick of celery finely chopped
  • 125 gm bacon (about 6 rashers) finely chopped
  • a knob of of butter
  • 2 Tbs of olive oil
  • 1 small handful of parsley finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 medium potatoes cut into small cubes
  • 3 tsp of smoked red pepper (use 1 tsp of smoked paprika as a subsititute)
  • 500ml boiling water
  • 500gm of mussel meat
  • 500ml milk
  • salt and black pepper

How to make:

  • heat the butter and olive oil in a heavy based pot
  • add the onion, leek and celery and cook until soft (about 5 minutes)
  • add the bacon and cook for a minute or two
  • add the parsley, 2 of the 3 tsp of smoked red pepper and cubed potatoes
  • add salt and pepper (fairly generous with both)
  • add the 500ml of boiling water
  • bring to the boil for a few minutes and then allow to simmer for about 20 minutes on a low heat and until the potatoes are soft
  • gently squash the mix with a potato masher (this releases some of the starch and thickens the soup) – there should still be a few chunks
  • add the mussels and the milk and bring to the boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes
  • adjust the seasoning and add the third tsp of smoked red pepper
  • finish off with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and serve in or with crusty sourdough bread

The liquid from the soup gets absorbed by the inner layer of the bread which is fantastic to eat afterwards.  I heated the bread in the oven for 10 minutes before to give it a hard outer crust.

a rich creamy soup with delicious smokey flavours


  1. Dawn Sprighton

    Hi there Samantha

    This looks divine – my mouth is watering. I too love chowder and especially mussels.
    When you have a moment could you let me know how much milk is needed. Many thanks.


  2. Sam

    Hi Dawn, apologies its 500ml milk (I have updated the post).
    Thanks for pointing that out to me.

  3. It looks so deliciously thick – just the way I like my soups! PS: What exactly is the difference between chowder and soup? I was asked the other day and was completely stumped.

  4. Sam

    Marisa, a chowder is a thicker, chunkier and cream/ milk based soup vs a soup which is generally thinner and broth like. sam

  5. Sam

    Another explanation:
    What is the difference between chowder and soup?
    Nikolaos T., Rutherford, N.J.

    A: Chowder’s roots are in the Northeast, with the most popular being New England Clam Chowder. It has been said that the soup took its name from a type of French cooking vessel, the chaudiere. But the French can’t claim responsibility for this truly is an American tradition. Customarily, chowder included onion, potatoes, and cream. Nowadays, not all chowders adhere to these guidelines. New England Clam Chowder is sometimes made with milk, and Manhattan Clam Chowder doesn’t have any milk or cream, but has a tomato base instead. As chowders pop up across the country, they have taken on many different ingredients but most people still expect a chunky, creamy soup. So whether it’s corn chowder or seafood chowder, it will not be a smooth puree and it will not be thin and wimpy.

  6. I have such a weakness for clams and mussels as well as thick, rich, creamy chowders and yours look incredible! And then served in a loaf of bread? Too cool! I must try your recipe.

  7. This looks so delicious I can’t wait to make it! Thanks for the inspiration and your blog is really gorgeous 🙂

  8. This looks great – Can’t wait to try it. Did you use fresh mussels or smoked mussels? (From a can)

  9. Sam

    Hi Sarah, I used frozen mussel meat as I could not get hold of any fresh.

  10. Yummo! We made this recipe last night and it was perfectection – thanks for sharing!

  11. Sam

    HI Katie – thanks so much for writing to let me know. You have made my day 🙂

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