Cullen Skink Recipe

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Cullen Skink Recipe



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Cullen Skink, a heartwarming traditional Scottish soup, is more than just a dish; it’s a comforting embrace from the cold, northern shores of Scotland. Originating from the small fishing village of Cullen in Moray, on the northeast coast of Scotland, this soup has become a beloved part of Scottish cuisine. Renowned for its rich flavor and hearty consistency, Cullen Skink is a simple yet delicious blend of smoked haddock, potatoes, onions, and milk or cream. It stands out for its uncomplicated nature, allowing the quality of the ingredients to shine through.


Smoked haddock (finnan haddie) – 500 grams, undyed
Potatoes – 3 medium, peeled and diced
Onion – 1 large, finely chopped
Milk – 600 ml
Heavy cream (optional) – 100 ml
Butter – 1 tablespoon
Fresh parsley – for garnish
Salt and pepper – to taste


Preparation of the Haddock: Begin by poaching the smoked haddock. Place the fish in a pan and cover it with the milk. Gently heat until it’s simmering, then cook for about 5 minutes until the fish is just cooked through. Carefully remove the haddock, reserving the milk, and when cool enough to handle, flake the fish, discarding any skin and bones.

Cooking the Vegetables: In a separate pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the finely chopped onion and cook until it’s soft but not browned. Add the diced potatoes to the pot and stir to mix with the onions. Cook for a few minutes.

Combining Ingredients: Pour the reserved milk from the haddock into the pot with the potatoes and onions. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender.

Adding the Haddock: Once the potatoes are cooked, add the flaked haddock to the pot. If you’re using heavy cream, add it now. Gently stir the mixture to combine.

Seasoning and Serving: Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. Be cautious with the salt, as the smoked haddock already adds a salty flavor. Let the soup simmer for a couple more minutes, then remove from heat.

Presentation: Serve hot, garnished with freshly chopped parsley. Some prefer to blend part of the soup for a creamier texture, but traditionally, it’s served with the ingredients left chunky.

Cullen Skink is more than just a soup; it’s a delightful culinary experience that brings the essence of Scottish coastal life to your table. Its creamy texture and smoky flavor make it a favorite comfort food, perfect for cold evenings. This dish is not just about feeding the body, but also about preserving a piece of Scottish heritage. Whether you’re a seasoned cook or a beginner, preparing Cullen Skink is a journey worth taking, culminating in a dish that’s both satisfying and steeped in tradition.

Variations and Accompaniments

While the traditional recipe for Cullen Skink is cherished for its simplicity and depth of flavor, there are several variations that cater to different tastes and preferences. Some cooks like to add a bay leaf or a sprig of thyme to the milk while poaching the fish, infusing the dish with an additional layer of flavor. A pinch of nutmeg or a clove of garlic can also add a unique twist to the classic recipe.

In terms of accompaniments, Cullen Skink is often enjoyed with crusty bread or rolls, perfect for dipping into the creamy soup and soaking up its flavors. For a more substantial meal, it can be served alongside a fresh green salad or steamed greens.

Health Benefits

Cullen Skink, aside from being a comfort food, also offers several health benefits. Smoked haddock is a good source of protein and contains essential vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin B12 and selenium. The milk and cream provide calcium, beneficial for bone health, while the potatoes contribute dietary fiber, potassium, and vitamin C.

Cullen Skink is a testament to the beauty of Scottish cuisine – uncomplicated, hearty, and deeply flavorful. This soup isn’t just food; it’s a story of Scottish heritage, a connection to the sea, and a reminder of the simple pleasures in life. Its ability to warm and comfort makes it a timeless classic, cherished in Scotland and beyond. Whether enjoyed in a cozy Scottish pub or made in your own kitchen, Cullen Skink offers a taste of Scotland that is both nourishing and deeply satisfying.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cullen Skink

What is the origin of the name ‘Cullen Skink’?

The name ‘Cullen Skink’ originates from the small Scottish town of Cullen in Moray. In Scots, the word ‘skink’ refers to a soup or stew, particularly one made with beef or chicken stock. The term ‘skink’ used to mean ‘shin’ or ‘knuckle’, which were often used to make broths. Over time, in the case of this dish, it came to be associated with this particular fish soup.

Can I use a different type of fish instead of smoked haddock?

While smoked haddock (finnan haddie) is traditional and provides the distinctive flavor of Cullen Skink, you can substitute it with other types of smoked white fish. Smoked cod or pollock can be suitable alternatives. However, the unique taste of the dish may vary with different fish.

Is Cullen Skink suitable for those with dietary restrictions?

Traditional Cullen Skink includes dairy and fish, which might not be suitable for individuals with lactose intolerance, dairy allergies, or those following a vegan diet. However, dairy-free milk alternatives can be used as substitutes. For a completely vegan version, a smoked tofu or a similar plant-based product could replace the fish, though the taste profile will change significantly.

Can Cullen Skink be frozen for later use?

Yes, Cullen Skink can be frozen, although the texture of the potatoes might change slightly upon reheating. It’s best to cool the soup quickly and freeze it in airtight containers. Consume it within a few months for the best quality. Thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before reheating.

How can I thicken Cullen Skink if it’s too thin?

If your Cullen Skink is thinner than you’d like, you can thicken it by mashing some of the potatoes directly in the soup. Alternatively, a small amount of cornstarch mixed with cold milk or water and then stirred into the soup can help thicken it. Be sure to bring the soup back to a gentle simmer for a few minutes after adding the cornstarch mixture.

Is Cullen Skink healthy?

Cullen Skink is a wholesome dish rich in protein and essential nutrients from the fish, milk, and potatoes. However, it can be high in calories and fat due to the milk and cream. For a healthier version, you can use low-fat milk and reduce or omit the cream.

What are the best side dishes to serve with Cullen Skink?

Cullen Skink is often enjoyed with crusty bread, which complements the creamy texture of the soup. Additionally, a simple green salad or steamed vegetables can balance the richness of the soup, making for a more rounded meal.

Cullen Skink is not just a delightful Scottish dish but a culinary experience rich in history and flavor. Whether you’re trying it for the first time or are a seasoned fan, this soup offers comfort, nourishment, and a taste of Scottish tradition.


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