Cullen skink is a popular hearty thick, rich and creamy soup from Scotland, made with smoked haddock, potatoes, leeks and milk.
Cullen skink takes its name from the coastal town of Cullen on the northeast coast of Scotland where it is known as a hearty fisherman’s soup.
It is a most delicious smoked fish soup, it is slightly sweet, full of flavour and super comforting, it is a family favourite!
Traditionally cullen skink was made with a knuckle of beef, skink being the Scottish term for it.
It was not till the 1980’s that beef was eventually replaced with smoked haddock due to the cheaper and more plentiful supply of haddock in the region, however the name skink remained.
This local speciality became so popular it ranks as one of Scotland’s most famous dishes.
Cullen skink is also known as Scottish haddock soup.
This tasty fish soup is a perfect starter for entertaining as it is so quick and easy to make (ready in just under 30 minutes). It can be prepared several hours in advance allowing the flavours to develop even further (see how to make it ahead below).
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Selecting the fish
Cullen skink is typically made using finnan haddie, haddock which has been smoked with green wood and peat in a style typical of the northeast coast of Scotland.
However any smoked haddock will do. I usually use a couple of packets of M&S smoked haddock which has already been skinned and deboned (don’t worry if the weight come to slightly over or under 400 grams).
Poach – Fillets of haddock are lightly poached in milk to create a slightly sweet rich base for the soup (see your questions answered below). The fish does not require prolonged cooking as it is already smoked. During poaching the fillets will flake into large pieces.
Vegetables – this cullen skink recipe is made with leeks, potatoes (or cauliflower for a keto version) and onion, chopped small (diced) so they cook quickly.
Blend – blend till smooth or leave it slightly chunky if you prefer more of a bite to the soup.
Serving – serve warm with a thick slice of your favourite crusty bread.
The keto version
To make cullen skink keto, use cauliflower instead of potatoes.
Make in advance
Cullen skink can be made a day ahead which it perfect for entertaining.
Allow the soup to cool before transferring to a sealed container and keep in the fridge.
To reheat warm it gently on a low heat in a saucepan on the stove adding a tiny bit of milk if necessary.
Your questions answered
Poaching fish in milk not only adds flavour to the milk, it gives a slight sweetness, plus the fats in the milk help the fish absorb the flavour of other ingredients, in this case the bay leaf. The higher the fat content of the milk, the more effective this will be, so try and use whole milk or half and half.
Cullen Skink will keep in a sealed container for 1-2 days in the fridge. Warm in the microwave or in a saucepan on low heat before serving.
It can be frozen the same day and kept for up to a month. Defrost overnight in the fridge and reheat on a low heat, adjusting the seasoning as required.
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Are you making Cullen Skink – Scottish smoked haddock soup? I’d love to hear how it turned out for you in the comments below!
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- 400 grams smoked haddock 14 ounces, skinned and deboned
- 500 ml whole milk 2 cups, warm
- 1 large bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 small onion chopped small
- 2 medium leeks sliced thinly
- 300 ml water 1 ⅓ cups, room temperature
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 400 grams potatoes 14 ounces or 2 medium, cut into small cubes
- ¼ freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley coarsely chopped
- To a medium saucepan add 400 grams smoked haddock, 1 large bay leaf and 500 ml whole milk and turn heat to medium, then cover and bring to a boil. Once bubbles start to form round the edges and the milk begins to rise, remove from heat, set aside and discard the bay leaf.
- In a separate medium saucepan melt 2 tablespoons butter on medium heat, add 1 small onion and 2 medium leeks (sliced thinly). Cover and cook till softened for around 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
- Pour in 300 ml water, add ½ teaspoon salt 400 grams potatoes and half the poached haddock with all the milk. Cover and cook on a low flame till the potatoes are tender then remove from the heat.
- Blend the soup till smooth or to desired consistency and add the remaining haddock. Taste for seasoning then garnish with ¼ freshly ground black pepper and 1 tablespoon fresh parsley (chopped), serve warm with crusty bread.
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Nutritional information is calculated automatically and accuracy cannot be guaranteed. The information above is an estimate per serving.
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