Some cookery is thoroughly planned, other dishes more impromptu and, way north of Inverness, we spotted mussels for sale that formed the backbone of a somewhat thrown-together, but utterly delicious, fish chowder. Its comforting qualities did much to restore and revive.
smoked haddock 2 fillets
a few peppercorns
spring onions 6
thin smoked streaky bacon 4 rashers
butter a thick slice
a small swede about 200g
a small cauliflower or half a large one
rapeseed or olive oil 1 tbsp
Place the smoked haddock, peppercorns and milk in a pan, bring to the boil, then put a lid on and turn the heat off. Leave to infuse for 10 minutes.
Finely slice and thoroughly wash the leek. Chop the spring onions and cut the bacon into pieces the size of a postage stamp. Melt the butter in a large pan, add the leek, spring onions and bacon, then cook for a few minutes to soften.
Peel and roughly chop the swede and break the cauliflower into large florets, then add them to the pan.
Strain the milk from the fish into the vegetables, holding the fish back. Simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the oil to a pan and cook the cleaned mussels with the lid on for 2-3 minutes, till they all open up, discarding any that refuse to open. Add the mussels to the soup, along with any cooking liquor that has appeared in the pan, then add the smoked haddock, broken into large chunks.
Allow the broth to bubble for a further minute or so and then serve.
• Nigel's new book, Kitchen Diaries II, is published by Fourth Estate at £30. To order a copy for £19.99 (including free UK mainland p&p), go to guardian.co.uk/bookshop or call 0330 333 6846.