James Bond knows a thing or two about conchs. For one thing, they’re reputed to be an aphrodisiac. For another, island people have conch chowder on their wedding night. Bond tells Domino Vitali as much while flirting with her over drinks in the Bahamian capital of Nassau in Thunderball (1961). Conch chowder has the rare distinction of a food that is mentioned both in the original novel and its screen adaptation (another is figs and yoghurt, which appears in the book and film of From Russia, with Love). My recipe is inspired by one published in Jamaica’s Sunday Gleaner Magazine in 1968, which in turn was, appropriately, based on a recipe that originated in the Bahamas and is almost certainly contemporary with the novel.
- 200g conch meat, cooked (or cooked whelk meat if conchs are unavailable)
- Juice of one lime
- 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
- ½ (c. 80g) green pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
- 50g smoked bacon lardons
- 2 medium potatoes or 1 large one (c. 250-270g), peeled and finely diced
- 1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
- 500ml water
- 2-3 drops hot pepper sauce (or to taste)
- Black pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp finely chopped thyme
- Butter (c. 30g) for frying
- Chopped parsley to garnish
Finely chop the conch (or whelk) meat in a food processor, adding the lime juice before processing. (If you don’t have a processor, chop the meat by hand and mix it with the lime juice in a bowl.) In a large saucepan, melt the butter over a medium heat. When the butter starts to sizzle, add the onion, green pepper, potato and lardons. Fry, stirring occasionally, until the onion and pepper soften. Mix in the conch meat, then add the tomotoes, water, bay leaf and thyme. Stir to combine the ingredients, then add the hot pepper sauce and a generous pinch of black pepper. Stir again, then cover the pan and bring the liquid to a boil. Remove the lid, reduce the heat and allow the chowder to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes have started to distintigrate and the chowder is nice and thick (approximately 25-30 minutes). Transfer the chowder to a serving bowl and garnish with a sprinkle of parsley.