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Cullen Skink

This is a local speciality, from the town of Cullen in Moray, on the north-east coast of Scotland. It is often served as a starter at formal Scottish dinners. Cullen Skink is a thick Scottish soup made of smoked Finnan haddie, potatoes and onions or leeks. Finnan haddie, also known as Finnan haddock, Finnan or Findrum speldings, is cold smoked haddock, representative of a regional method of smoking with green wood and peat in North-east Scotland.

Using Finnan haddie, or another un-dyed smoked haddock, is essential, however as Finnan haddock is such a rarity these days, sadly, you may have to use ordinary smoked haddock. Several versions of Cullen Skink exist, some are pureed to a creamy liquid, others have a spoonful of roughly mashed potato and flaked fish added at the end, and some replace part of the stock with a dry white wine. Although, whatever the recipe, the traditional finished dish should have the consistency of thick cream, thickened by the mashed potatoes.

Cullen Skink Recipe

Serves 4 people.

Recipe Ingredients:

  • 500g Finnan haddock (or smoked haddock)
  • 1 onion (peeled and roughly chopped)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 600 ml fish stock
  • 225g young leeks (washed of grit and thinly sliced small)
  • 225g cooked and mashed potatoes (see Creamy Mash)
  • 50g butter
  • 300ml single cream
  • 1 egg yolk
  • ground sea-salt (to taste)
  • ground white pepper (to taste)
  • 1/2 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
  • 1/2 tablespoon finely chopped chives

Recipe Method:

Pu the chopped onion, bay leaf, and haddock in a wide, shallow saucepan and just cover with cold water. Bring slowly up to the boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes, until the fish flesh is coming away from the bone. Take the fish out, and allow to cool, reserve the cooking liquid, onion and bay leaf.

Remove the skin from the fish, and flake the flesh from the bones. Keep the flesh in a bowl, and return the skin and bones to the saucepan with the reserved liquid. Bring back up to the boil, and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Strain through a sieve and discard everything but the cooking liquid.

In a frying pan melt the butter and sweat the chopped leeks on a very gentle heat until tender (do not brown).

Mix the cooking liquid with the fish stock in a large saucepan. Bring up to the boil, add the leeks and butter from the frying pan, season, and boil for 10 minutes, until tender. Mix in the mashed potato (make a Creamy Mashed Potato) until smooth. Add the flaked fish and simmer for 7 minutes.

Beat the cream and egg yolk in a jug until smooth and add to the soup. Stir this in over a low heat, until the soup is thoroughly heated, but do not let it boil, or it will curdle. Taste and adjust the seasoning with ground sea-salt and black pepper, transfer to a serving bowl(s) and serve the Cullen Skink with a sprinkling of chopped parsley and chives.