Smoked Haddock Velouté by Roy Brett of Ondine

December is a month for celebration but also for memories. On Christmas Eve I’ll be cooking for my mum which is the perfect chance to catch up, reflect on the year and years gone by. For many people it is a poignant time as we think about those we have lost. From Andrew Fairlie at the start of the year to Gary Rhodes just last week, every loss is a reminder to embrace what we have in the present. For me, Christmas is all about traditions. We inherit them as children and then grow and develop our own. Some make good sense such as Stir Up Sunday, which is traditionally takes place on the last Sunday before Advent where home bakers don their aprons and make their Christmas pudding. This gives pudding enough time to mature and develop flavour in time for Christmas Day. Others, are more problematic. Who decided brandy butter is just the thing to serve with a Christmas pudding that is already rich beyond its wildest dreams?

Some of our family traditions date back to a special period in our lives. We spent several happy years in Cornwall when I worked as Head Chef for Rick Stein. We used to enjoy annual visits to the Padstow Christmas Festival which has now grown into one of the biggest food and drink events in the calendar. Next week, Rick Stein will welcome top chefs from across the country for demonstrations and special dinners as part of the festival. I made a pilgrimage back to the south-west a couple of years ago and it was a very special way to kick off the Christmas festivities.

When it comes to Christmas cooking traditions, some things are sacred. I will always cook a turkey with all the trimmings on the big day, making it the biggest meal of the year! For that reason, what you eat before and after demands some special consideration. As a seafood chef, of course I would suggest prawn cocktail or smoked salmon. Both are traditional and delicious, when done well with the best ingredients. But, on the Christmas menu at Ondine this year, I’ve opted for a special soup that is full of festive flavour. When I say soup, it is actually a velouté. A velouté is one of the five mother sauces of classical cuisine. However, unlike the others, this one is a bit like a blank colouring book. It provides you with the backdrop to do whatever you choose with the guarantee that it will taste delicious. At Ondine, it has to be fish and in Scotland that means haddock. Smoked haddock works best for this dish, giving it a deep winter taste that will remind you of good food eaten around a bonfire. We serve it with a carefully poached egg placed on top. Grab a spoon and enjoy this delicious combination of smooth, smoky velouté with the rich yolk folded into it. This is a showstopper starter for Christmas Day and is perfect as a warm and nourishing treat to return to after a Boxing Day walk. However you have it, enjoy it!

Ondine is located at 2 George IV Bridge in Edinburgh. For more information, visit: or call 0131 226 1888.

Smoked Haddock Volute

Serves 6


For the stock:

200ml fish stock

200ml milk

100ml double cream

Smoked haddock trim

2 bay leaves

2 sprigs thyme

For the velouté:

½ stick celery, diced

1 leeks, diced

2 onions, diced

4 red rooster potatoes, peeled and diced

80g garlic, peeled and chopped

300g smoked haddock, diced reserving the centre bone

100ml crème fraiche

100ml Scottish rapeseed oil

For the poached eggs

6 free range eggs

50ml white wine vinegar

Salt and pepper, to season

For garnish

50g chives

Salt and pepper, to season


1. Start by preparing the smoked haddock. Simply cut out the centre bone leaving two fillets. Reserve the fillets for the velouté and move onto the stock.

2. In a thick bottomed pan, pour the fish stock, milk and double cream. Now add the smoked haddock bones, trim, bay leaf and thyme. Bring to the simmer and cook slowly for 30 minutes until infused. Pass through a fine sieve, then set aside.

3. Moving on to the velouté, in a separate thick bottomed, turn the heat to a moderate temperature, add the rapeseed oil, then the leeks, onions, potatoes, garlic and celery. Sweat the vegetables down making sure they don’t start to colour for 5 minutes until tender. Pour in the stock and mix well together. Now add the diced smoked haddock and bring to the simmer. Check the seasoning, then carefully blend in a food processor.

4. Next, poach the eggs. Half fill a medium saucepan with water and add a pinch of salt and splash of vinegar. Crack open the eggs carefully into 6 individual cups. Whisk the boiling water to create a whirlpool, then carefully add the eggs one at time. Allow to simmer for 3 minutes, then remove from the pan and place on drying paper.

5. To finish, bring the velouté to a simmer and whisk in the crème fraiche. Divide into your bowls and place an egg into the centre of each and season. Finally, sprinkle over the chive batons and drizzle over a little rapeseed oil.