Scotland's Cullen Skink Is The Comforting Dish You Need This Winter

Soup is one of the oldest recipes in the world. It's not that hard to believe; it is all too easy to imagine men, women, and children huddled around a warm fire sipping on bowls of broth, meat, and veggies, or to believe that ancient rulers had a vast pick of ingredients to choose from in order to concoct a favorite stew. Recipes like French onion soup, gazpacho from Spain, pho from Vietnam, and wonton soup from China are all global favorites today, but humanity has been simmering pots of soup over the fire for over 7,000 years, according to Realm of History

Even the Mesopotamians had their favorite hearty stews, made from the most ancient agricultural products in history, but one soup that doesn't get near enough credit for its hearty deliciousness is Scotland's Cullen skink soup. Never heard of it? That's all right! It isn't a widely well-known recipe outside of the United Kingdom, but if you are a fan of seafood chowder or any kind of fish stew, you're going to fall in love with this hearty Scottish bowl of soup made with smoked haddock, cream, and a whole lot of potatoes (via The Guardian).

The history of Cullen skink

Have you ever indulged in a nice creamy bowl of clam chowder? What about a French bisque filled with all sorts of shellfish and spices? Or a Flemish seafood waterzooi? If you've had the opportunity to indulge in any of these, you'll have a pretty good idea of what Cullen skink is like. The Culture Trip describes the Scottish soup as smoky, creamy, and filling. This dish combines Aberdeenshire smoked haddock, potatoes, and a heavy helping of cream heaped into the broth (and sometimes onions), ensuring that you feel perfectly full after indulging. The World Food Story says that the soup is as traditional to Scotland as haggis or oat porridge. The soup is believed to have originated in the coastal city of Cullen, right off the North Sea, as it is quite popular in the region.

According to Discover Cullen, the name "skink" originates from the Gaelic word for "essence," so Cullen skink basically means "the essence of Cullen." The soup was originally made using beef (usually from the legs of cattle), but during the 1890s, Cullen Harbour had become a thriving fishing harbor with an emphasis on smoked haddock. As such, fish replaced the beef.

Cullen skink ingredients

The three most important ingredients of Cullen skink are potatoes, fish, and cream. Some recipes call for onions or greens, but the three major ingredients remain. The smoked haddock, in particular, is at the heart of the dish. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts explains that haddock fish meat is naturally white, firm, flaky, and slightly sweet, making it the perfect choice for a variety of meals, especially those fried or baked — or, in the city of Cullen, smoked. Scottish Scran claims that most Cullen skink recipes ask that you use "undyed smoked haddock" instead of commonly dyed haddock, not because it will affect the flavor of the dish but because the dyed meat has a habit of turning the soup fairly yellow. So long as you don't mind the color, it doesn't matter what kind of smoked haddock you get your hands on so long as it is of good quality! The haddock fish is what gives Cullen skink its desirable smoky flavor and meatiness.

The next most important ingredient is the potato. Potatoes aid the cream in the recipe in making this dish super creamy and thick. As for the kinds of potatoes you should use, Farmersgirl Kitchen recommends using Maris Piper potatoes, which are known to be creamy and fluffy and don't fall apart too easily. You must not use spuds that are too firm or waxy or else they won't mash down and blend into the soup, creating an unappetizing texture.

How to make Cullen skink

The ideal bowl of Cullen skink is meant to be warm and filling on cold Northern Scottish days when the weather is unforgiving and you need the ultimate comfort food. In addition, one of the best parts of this feel-good recipe is that it should take under an hour to make! BBC Good Food says that when making Cullen skink, you must prepare the tougher ingredients first by browning the onions in butter and boiling the potatoes until soft. Once this is complete, or at least in motion, cook the smoked haddock in a pan of milk (or cream) until tender. After cooking, you must make sure to remove all the bones or else your soup will have some rather strange surprises poking at you.

A recipe suggested by Scotland recommends adding chopped leek and seasoning the broth with bay leaf and black pepper. Once all the ingredients are finished cooking individually, stir together the cream, soft potatoes, haddock, and whatever veggies you've so chosen together until fully incorporated and sprinkle chives on top to serve. If you want to eat it in the most traditional manner, use a fresh wholemeal or granary bread to soak up the broth and enjoy!