from one generation to the next
This oddly named Scottish soup will forever be linked in my mind with the Isle of Skye. On a cold autumn night there, I chose Cullen Skink for dinner because I was curious about it’s name. After a couple of months of travelling the novelty of eating out each night had worn off and all I needed for dinner was something simple; warm and wholesome, but simple. The main street pub where we chose to eat served me a bowl of steaming, thick, creamy soup chock full of chunks of tender potato and flakes of tasty smoked haddock. At the time, it was perfect.
I’ve never forgotten that warming bowl of comfort. The memory of it has helped keep the magic of the Scottish Highlands alive in my mind. It’s a wild and desolate place, but the colours of the heather and bracken, and the mirror surfaced lakes reflecting the intense blue sky make it a picture perfect place to visit on a fine day.
None of my cookbooks reference Cullen Skink. A web search turned up a post on “the Guardian” blog “By Word of Mouth.” It detailed the many different ways noted British chefs make this soup. I felt sufficiently informed after a brief read to go it alone and make a Scottish Aussie hybrid.
On another cold night in Scotland, I learned to drink whisky, single malt whisky.
500g undyed smoked haddock
500 mls water
2 bay leaves
2 strips of lemon zest
2 spring onions, soft green tops only.
2 tablespoons finely diced celery
1 tablespoon butter
2 large potatoes, scrubbed, chopped into 1 cm dice
1 large potato, peeled, cut into 3 cm dice
500 mls of milk ( I used low fat lactose free )
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 spring onion green tops only, washed and sliced
1 tablespoon very finely sliced parsley
Bring the 500 mls of water to the boil with the bay leaves, peppercorns, lemon zest and spring onion greens.
Simmer for 10-15 minutes to infuse the flavours.
Reduce the heat to a simmer, then lay the haddock flat in the pan.
Simmer the fish for 5-8 minutes or until the flesh flakes easily with a fork.
Remove the fish and aside to cool.
Flake the cooked fish and discard the skin and bones. Set the fish aside.
Strain the fish poaching liquid, and make the volume back up to 500 mls with water.
In a medium saucepan with a lid, heat the butter then sweat the celery over a low heat for about 5 minutes.
Add the potatoes to the pan then stir to coat them in butter.
Add the fish poaching liquid.
Bring the pot to the boil, then put on the lid and lower the heat. Simmer gently for 15 minutes.
Roughly mash the contents of the pot with a potato masher. The soup should still have some texture.
Add the milk, the flaked fish and the sliced spring onions. Return the pot to the boil. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.
Stir in the finely chopped parsley.