Cullen Skink – our version of the classic fish chowder

Cullen Skink: now beat that for a wacky name. This Scottish fish soup/chowder is the ultimate in comfort food on a dark night when the rain is lashing against the window. It is great when you are tired at the end of a long day and probably takes about half an hour to make. It also a good way of using up a glut of leeks.

This is a recipe characterised by restraint. So often when you are cooking it’s tempting to throw in all manner of ingredients such as chilli and garlic but here it’s best to keep things simple and use minimal ingredients.

If you’ve got super fussy children, try this recipe out on them. Even my boys who are advocates of the ‘yellow diet’, which means crisps, chips and various sorts of stodge, will have thirds. So give it a go and let me know if you have any success.

Serves 4

2 large leeks
500g smoked haddock (undyed is best, although the yellow is fine)
2 large potatoes, peeled and chopped into inch dice
1 bay leaf
500ml water
250ml full fat milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon single cream (optional)
Nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon grated
Small bunch parsley, chopped
Black pepper


First of all place the fish in the milk with a bayleaf and simmer gently until the fish is nearly cooked. This will take between 5 to 10 minutes. If the fish has skin on it, pull it out with a slotted spoon and when it’s cool enough to handle pull the skin off. Break the fish up into bite-size portions and return to the milk. Set aside.

Chop and wash leeks carefully, especially if they are home grown. Make a few cuts vertically down the length of the leek and then wash under the tap. Then cut into 1/2cm rounds.

In a large saucepan put the olive oil, butter, pinch of salt and the leeks and cook gently on a low heat with the lid on for about 10 minutes. Check from time to time that it’s not burning. Then add the diced potatoes and the water and bring to the boil. Cook for about 15 minutes on a moderate heat.

When the potatoes are nearly cooked, you can add the fish and milk mixture. Remove the bay leaf. Bring the soup to the boil again. The soup is ready when the fish is cooked and the potatoes are soft, although you want them to keep their shape.

Now add a generous grating of pepper and nutmeg and at the last minute put in the parsley. You probably won’t need any salt. For added decadence add some cream (extra sustenance in the event of snow and hail).

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