Cullen Skink

Cullen Skink and an oatie

Cullen Skink is possibly the oddest named soup of them all. And also the fairest. It is essentially a smoked haddock chowder, originating from a Scottish town named “Cullen”, and using a special type of smoked haddock known as “Finnan Haddie”. It is, however, not related in any way to the reptile known as a “skink”. This is a skink:

  Anyway, Cullen Skink is perfect for bitter January days, and incredibly easy and cheap to make. Smokey, salty, creamy, warming: everything you need after a heavy weekend, perfect Scottish comfort food.

In my Skink I used Arbroath Smokies (hot-smoked haddock from Arbroath) which have a particularly fine flavour and are readily available up here, but haddock is possibly easier to get hold of and more traditional….

Despite this I recommend you seek out Smokie in the future, they really are wonderful things….Here’s a pic of some:

Cullen Skink 

(serves 4 as a starter, 2-3 as a main)

1 large white onion

1 large leek

2 medium potatoes

2 bay leaves

1 blade mace

2 fillets smoked haddock(undyed) or 1 smokie

1 pint milk (full-cream)

1/4 pint water

Large knob butter

salt and pepper and nutmeg to season

Extra cream to drizzle (optional)

Chives/parsley to garnish

First put the haddock, a few peppercorns, the blade of mace and the two bay leaves in a saucepan and pour over all the milk and water. Bring to a gentle simmer (dont boil or the milk will split and look ugly) Simmer for about 6-7 mins, until the haddock is flaking off the skin, and then leave the liquid to infuse while you dice the onion and leek finely. Sweat these in a generous knob of butter- very gently now-you can make a cartouche (a greaseproof paper lid) to ensure good sweating. After at least 20-30 minutes add the peeled, 1cm diced potatoes and sweat for a few minutes. Add the strained haddock liquid to the pan and simmer until the potatoes are soft. Pick the flesh from the haddock and discard the skin. Fish out a few cubes of potato and leek for texture and garnish, then puree the soup with some fish if you like, or you can put it on spearately if preferred. When the soup is smooth check the seasoning, add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Add a dash of cream if you fancy, then serve with a couple of cubes of potato, some flaked fish and some green stuff (snipped chives/chopped parsley) on top.


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