Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Cullen Skink, a Scottish smoked haddock and potato soup (gluten-free)


Few days ago the Scots - and friends of Scotland - celebrated yet another anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, hosting or attending a Burns Supper. Any self-respecting Burns Supper begins with a proper Scottish soup. I've shared a recipe for Cock-a-leekie before, other options are Scotch broth and Cullen Skink.  Now it's time to share my recipe for the smoked haddock and potato soup - think of it as a Scotch chowder :)

The soup is from the North-East of Scotland, from the fishing town of Cullen. Originally it's a comfort food, cheap and easy fare, and it's still popular in and around Cullen. Yet somehow that humble soup has tranformed into a fancy fare to be enjoyed at various festive Scottish occasions.

Scots know their smoked fish. Arbroath Smokie is a pair of salted haddocks, hot-smoked in a humid smoking chamber. Finnan Haddie, the traditional fish used for making Cullen Skink, is gutted and cleaned haddock that's been dry-salted and then smoked in a cool smoking chamber for 8-9 hours. If Finnan Haddie is hard to find where you live - that's probably most of the world apart from the British Isles - (and avoid the bright yellow dyed stuff, it discolours the soup), then any other nice smoked white fish would do. I used smoked cod, a user of my Estonian Nami-Nami site said that the soup worked well with smoked herring.

Cullen Skink
(Šoti suitsukalasupp)
Serves 6 as a starter, 3 as a main dish


500 g smoked haddock (ideally Finnan Haddie)
500 ml (2 cups) of water
butter for frying
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 large leek, cleaned and sliced
2-4 floury potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
500 ml (2 cups) whole milk
1 bay leaf
salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh chives, finely minced

Place the fish into a pan, add the bay leaf and cold water. Gently bring into a boil, then simmer for about a minute or two. Remove the fish from the pan, transfer onto a plate and leave to cool. Keep the fish stock!

In another pot melt the butter gently. Add onion and leek, cover and sauté gently for a about 10 minutes. Stir every now and then, do not brown! Season with salt and pepper. Add potato pieces to the onion and leek, give it a stir. Add 500 ml/2 cups of fish stock, bring into a boil and simmer until the potato is cooked.

At the same time remove the fish from the bones carefully, flake into smaller pieces (discard the fish skin and bones). Using a slotted spoon, take couple of spoonfuls of the potato-leek mixture from the soup and put aside. Discard the bay leaf. Add the milk, bring gently into a boil. Add about half of the smoked fish. Mash the remaining soup or pureé using the hand-held/immersion blender. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, place a large spoonful or two of potato-leek-smoked fish mixture into the middle of each soup bowl, then ladle the liquid soup neatly into the bowls as well. Garnish with chives and serve.