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Scottish Cullen Skink - Smoked Haddock Chowder Recipe

User Rating 3.5 Star Rating (2 Reviews)


Cullen Skink

Cullen Skink

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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.

Watch How to Make Cullen Skink with Elaine Lemm

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


Serves 4

  • 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.
User Reviews

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 2 out of 5
Basic ingredient missing; alternative versions, Member Assynteach

Any two Scottish foodies will argue about the ""right"" Cullen Skink recipe, but in my view the mashed potato one suggested here is a poshed-up one based on the version of this classic that began appearing in trendy restaurants in the 1980s. My handed-down-the-generations version starts by poaching the haddie (haddock) in milk with a very generous knob of butter, then removing and flaking it once it has cooled a little. Meanwhile thick slices of scrubbed new potato or peeled chunks of large ones are cooked carefully in the same milk - don't let the milk get stuck on the bottom of the pan and burn - until just done. (If using old potatoes the soup will naturally thicken slightly as the potatoes soften; if using new ones you can enjoy the different texture of a different season, or break up a few slices to thicken the soup.) Once the potatoes are cooked the flaked haddie is returned to the pan with a good handful of chopped syboes (the Scots term for spring onions/scallions) or thinly-sliced leeks and the soup just brought back to heat enough to cook the leeks to a still slightly crunchy stage, or take the rawness off the syboes. Then seasoning is added: add salt only if needed but do add ground WHITE pepper to give just a tiny hit of heat in the background to stop the soup being too bland. The use of white pepper is key; not only is it more traditional than the now-fashionable ""freshly ground black pepper"" - which Cullen fisherman's wife ever had a pepper-gender before about 1978?! - but it adds a different and much better flavour to this dish, as well as being more pleasing to the eye. (Flecks of black pepper are too obvious.) You can, of course, add parsley as well as the syboes or leeks but, again, traditionalists will know that parsley isn't always available in the Scottish garden all year round - I have almost none, now, in February - whereas leeks are in season more or less all year and syboes are a traditional Scots favourite and would have been a welcome change from the leeks when came into season. Either way, the onion-ish flavour of leeks or syboes s essential. The parsley is a pleasant optional extra. The resultant dish should be a thick, chunky, hearty meal-in-a-bowl, not a fancy smooth texture. Okay, fellow Scots: let the arguing begin! (Arguing being something we are been better at than soup making - and that's quite something!) ;-)

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