Saturday, February 27, 2010

Smoked Fish Soup - Scottish Cullen Skink

Are you a fan of smoked fish? It is a way to add a lot of flavor with no extra calories. My dad is a huge fan. When I was brainstorming Christmas gifts for him this past fall – what do you get for a man who has everything he wants? – my friend Elise Hayes suggested I get him smoked salmon. At first, I was skeptical, but then I thought about it for awhile. He seems to get more and more nostalgic with every year he adds to his age. If I could find out what smoked fish was popular in 1950’s Worcester, Massachusetts, I could make him a great smoked fish basket that would also help him reminisce, and I would enjoy listening to his stories.

I did a lot of online searches and stumbled across a smoked fish store in Springfield, Massachusetts. It wasn’t Worcester, but it had been around for decades and was only 15 miles from my parents’ house. I went there right before Christmas and got him smoked trout, smoked white fish, smoked salmon, smoked scallops, smoked mussels, white fish salad and pickled herring in wine sauce. It was a hit!

It was an incredible amount of smoked fish though. After a few days, we were looking for ways to use it besides eating it on crackers and bread. Once again, we turned to my sister’s Christmas gift – 1 stock, 100 soups. We found a hearty, Scottish classic. When my Dad had a bowl of this soup, he said it reminded him of the fish soups he ate growing up.

Scottish Cullen Skink

Serves 6


1 lb 2 oz/500 g smoked white fish (traditionally smoked haddock)

1 large onion, chopped

4 fresh parsley springs

6 cups broth (your choice: vegetable, fish, chicken, etc.)

1 lb 10 oz/750 g potatoes cut into chunks

4 tbsp butter

3 ¾ cups milk (your choice: whole, 2%, 1% or nonfat)

salt and pepper

chopped, fresh, flat-leaf parsley to garnish

crusty bread, to serve


Put the fish, onion and parsley into a large pan. Pour in the broth and bring to a boil, skimming off the foam that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes, until the flesh flakes easily.

Remove the pan from the heat and lift out the fish with a slotted spatula. Remove and discard the skin and bones and flake the flesh. Strain the broth into a clean pan.

Return the pan to the heat, add the potatoes, and bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until tender.

Remove the pan from the heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to a bowl. Add the butter and mash until smooth. Return the pan to the head, add the milk, and bring to a boil. Whisk in the mashed potatoes, a little at a time, until thoroughly incorporated. Gently stir in the fish and season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into warmed bowls, sprinkle with chopped parsley, and serve immediately with crusty bread.

Michelle Butler has made becoming a healthy writer a priority. She lives, works and writes in the Washington, DC, area. You can follow her on twitter at


Anne MacFarlane on February 27, 2010 at 7:57 AM said...

I'm not a lover of smoked fish. But I understand the "trying to find dad a gift" issue. For my Dad's birthday my sister buys him lobster - which is plentiful and reasonably priced here on the east coast.

Michelle Butler on February 27, 2010 at 8:53 AM said...

Lobster is a good idea too. Are they in season in January? I think of them as "in season" starting in the summer and really so in the fall, but I'm not sure if that's true or not.

MaryC on February 27, 2010 at 7:43 PM said...

Hey Michelle.

My daughter's college in Maine makes a haddock chowder that's fabulous. I'm wondering if maybe your recipe would come close. I'll have to give it a try.

Lobster season typically ends in December. Of course they're available year round from farms but the real season is spring through December with them peaking in the summer.

Michelle Butler on February 27, 2010 at 10:08 PM said...

Thanks, Mary! I really should know the season since I grew up in New England, but I wasn't sure.

I bet the haddock chowder is great. I love New England clam chowder. Smoked fish has a different taste than non-smoked fish. If the college doesn't used smoked fish, you may be disappointed. Or, you could try this recipe without smoked fish. Let me know if you do and like it!

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