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Simply Special: how to make traditional Cullen skink

It’s cold outside, so this is the perfect Scottish pick-me-up.

Cullen skink
Cullen skink

There are so many variations of Cullen skink and I’m sure the ladies and gentlemen of Cullen must wonder why!

I remember when I first heard about this amazing soup; the name Cullen skink was on a menu I was reading from the Ubiquitous Chip. In 1983, a boy that I was at college with had won a scholarship to work in their kitchen for six weeks and our lecturer gave us a look at the style of food that they did. Little did I know that, in the many years to come, I would be making it on a daily basis! It was also my daughter’s first taste of great Scottish fayre at the ripe age of nine months!

The variations for this fantastic dish include making it very creamy by only using double cream, which makes an incredibly rich stew of Cullen and you can even pop in some late additions such as crispy smoky bacon or mussels if you want, the choice is yours. However, don’t mention these additions to our North East relatives as they may not be pleased!

Cullen skink actually began in Russia and was made with potatoes, onions and beef. However, the cooks of Cullen had nowhere to find beef scraps so they opted for fish trimmings and then added the smoked part for extra flavour.

So give it a try this weekend. It only takes 10 minutes to prepare or you could rustle it up in under five minutes if you have some leftover mashed potatoes!

Cullen skink

450g of potatoes, peeled and diced roughly into 1cm squares

1 tablespoon of summer harvest rapeseed oil

1 finely chopped onion

450g of undyed smoked haddock, skinned and cooked

300ml of boiling water (You can use chicken or vegetable stock if you want and pop in the haddock skin for added flavour. However, don’t use fish stock as it makes it too fishy!)

425ml of full cream milk

3 tablespoons of double cream (optional)

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Fresh chives

 

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves: 4

 

1 Gently soften the onion in a heavy based pot

2 Add the diced potato and stir for a minute or two

3 Season lightly

4 Add the milk/stock water to the pot and place the fish on top

5 Bring to the boil and simmer for 2 minutes then lift the fish out and set it aside

6 Discard any bones and break the fish into chunks. Keep it warm.

7 Return the mix to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes to fully cook the potatoes

8 Stir in the fish and cream

9 Season to taste and serve immediately, garnished with chives

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