Well, it’s the 252nd anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns today. Scotland’s national bard, or so we call him, was a farmer from the south of the country who had a beautiful way with the Scottish language, so much so that his works still mean a lot today. I might do an Audioboo of a favourite Burns poem tonight, depending on how much whisky I’ve had…
But for now, have one of mine. Taking inspiration from Burns by using a simple subject (and a little motivation from a friend, who suggested it), I wrote a poem about one of my favourite things. Enjoy.
Ode To Cullen Skink
Some like to use bay leaves, and some prefer thyme
A soupçon of vinegar, a splash of white wine
They reach out for luxury and brave double cream
And seek to make it more complex than it seems
But the skink is a strong and a mighty affair
It has no desire for these bourgeoisie airs
A broth of simplicity for hardworking men
A memory to take to their trawlers again
Take smoked Finnan haddies, and poach them a bit
Flake the fish from its skin, mash some tatties, and sit
Add it all back to the water, with enough milk to taste
Then season and eat; it’ll not go to waste!
The thick smoky warmth tastes just like coming home
So if there’s one thing to take from reading this poem
It’s that Cullen’s a small place, but they sure know a lot
About how to throw all of life’s joys in one pot.
Scottish Cullen Skink
Smoked Haddock Chowder Recipe
Cullen is a small town in North east of Scotland and the home of one of Scotland’s most famous dishes, Cullen Skink which is a hearty soup and traditionally made with Finnan haddock (smoked haddock), potatoes and onions.In this recipe mashed potatoes are stirred into the soup creating thickness and flavour, some recipes however will add in scrubbed, new potatoes or potato chunks.Cullen Skink recipe is also known as Smoked Haddock Chowder
in other parts of Britain as the recipe is very similar.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
- 1 ¼ pints/700 ml milk
- ½ cup/ small handful flat leaf parsley
- 1 bay leaf
- 1lb /450g undyed, smoked haddock fillet
- ½ stick/55g butter
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 8oz/ 250g mashed potato, leftover or cooked fresh
- Salt and pepper
- Pour the milk into a large saucepan. Remove the leaves from the parsley and add the stalks to the milk. Finely chop the leaves and keep to one side. Add the bay leaf and the haddock to the milk.
- Bring the milk to a gentle boil and cook for 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and leave for 5 minutes for the herbs to infuse their flavour into the milk.
- Remove the haddock from the milk with a slotted spoon and put to one side. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve and reserve the herb-infused milk.
- Heat the butter in another saucepan, add the onions and cook gently until translucent about 5 mins, taking care not to burn them.
- Add the milk to the onions, then add the potato and stir until totally incorporated into the milk and should be a thick, creamy consistency.
- Flake the smoked haddock into meaty chunks taking care to remove any bones you may find. Add to the soup.
- Add the chopped parsley leaves to the soup and bring to a gentle simmer and cook for a further 4 – 5 minutes. Do not over stir. If over stirred then you will break up the fish too much.
- Taste the soup and add salt and pepper as needed, be careful with the salt, the fish will impart quite a salty flavour all on its own.
- Serve hot with crusty bread.
Garnish the soup with more chopped parsley or a little extra pepper as is your taste. Sometimes Cullen Skink is served with a softly poached hen’s egg on top for an even more filling soup or lightly poached quails eggs dropped into the soup before serving adds a touch of sophistication if you are serving the soup on a more formal occasion.
Occasionally, I also like to add a cup of cooked or warmed, canned sweetcorn before serving but this is not traditional for Cullen Skink, instead is more a Smoked Haddock Chowder just a personal preference