Cullen Skink or Smoked Fish and Potato Soup with Chives

11:00 pm on 2 June 2009

This is the most wonderful, winter warming, hearty and healthy soup. It has almost become ubiquitous on Scottish menus but is too good to ignore. The name is derived from a small east coast, Scottish fishing village called Cullen. It is a bleak cold windy place for most of the year, which lends its inhabitants to eating soul-warming food. But not to do disservice to the Cullen residents, on a summer’s day it is the most beautiful village and has some of the best fish in Scotland. Skink, on the other hand, is not so romantic. It is a traditional soup made from boiled beef shin which is then thickened by oat meal and seasoned with … you guessed it; kale. I suppose Cullen Skink is a simplified version of the great Kiwi chowder, but I urge you to try the simple, uncomplicated pleasures of onion, potato, smoked fish and milk. Uncomplicated but unsurpassed.


  • 750ml full-fat milk
  • 500g smoked fish; I find smoked snapper to resemble the traditional smoked haddock used in Scotland
  • 50g butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 200g mashed potato
  • chopped chives to finish


In a small saucepan place the smoked fish and the milk. Bring slowly to the boil then switch off the heat.

Meanwhile fry the onions slowly in the butter. Once cooked strain the milk through a sieve onto the onions and set aside the fish.

Take the soup off the heat and whisk in the mashed potato to thicken.

Flake the smoked fish into the soup, season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Stir in the chopped chives and serve warm.

For a splash of indulgence pour in 100ml of double cream and serve with a softly poached egg and a little grated mature cheddar on top.

John Hawkesby’s wine suggestions

Clearview unwooded 2008

Hinton Estate 2008

From Nine To Noon

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