Cullen Skink may sound like something out of a Roald Dahl novel, but it’s actually a British Classic. Cullen Skink is essentially a chowder, which is made in other parts of Britain, as well as being famous in the USA. However, the Scottish recipe is smokier and heartier than a typical lobster bisque or clam chowder.
Prior to the 1890s, Cullen Skink referred to a type of soup made with the scrapings of beef from shin bones. In fact, the term skink is derived from the Middle Dutch for shin bone. Hard times in the early 1890s meant this product became unaffordable for Northern populations. With the completion of Cullen Harbour in 1819, the area had a thriving fishing industry and specialise in the production of smoked haddock. Abundant in local waters, haddock soup offered a cheap, filling protein for local families. Smoked haddock thus became a staple ingredient in traditional broth recipes, resulting in a distinctive and hearty soup. Today, it is still served as an everyday dish, however, it is also frequently served as a starter at formal dinners in Scotland.
Cullen Skink Ingredients
Finnan haddie is a cold-smoked haddock which uses a traditional, regional smoking method from North-East Scotland that involves green wood and peat. The comparatively light smoking meant that the fish had a relatively short shelf life in comparison to other smoking methods. As such, it was primarily consumed regionally until transport methods meant that the fish could be transported long distances without spoiling.
There are common variations to the traditional Cullen Skink recipe:
- Water is an alternative to milk.
- Other smoked haddock, smoked basa or smoked cod are alternatives to Finnan haddie.
- Sometimes mashed potatoes are stirred into the soup creating thickness and flavour.
- Leek or chives can be added to boost the flavour profile.
- Season with garlic pepper for a final flourish.
Cullen Skink is traditionally served with a crusty chunk of bread – we love a sourdough!
This hearty soup gives Haggis a run for its money as Scotland’s best-known dish! The town of Cullen even hosts an annual Cullen Skink World Championship, so get cooking and see if your soup would be good enough to enter!
We love Sutherlands of Portsoy’s smoked haddock. Based just 6 miles away from Cullen, Sutherlands has been smoking fish since 1908 and use the traditional techniques passed down through 5 generations.
The Easy Option
Based in Moray, Baxters offer a premade Chef Selections Cullen Skink. The finest haddock is specially selected and smoked over wood chips in a smokehouse to give the soup a distinct flavour. Scottish potatoes, onions, & fresh double cream are then combined to make this uniquely special, handmade soup.
When buying fish, make sure to look for locally landed, sustainable options.