'Skink' is a fabulous old Scots word for that hearty bowlful treading the middle ground between soup and stew, the kind that delivers stacked, satisfying spoonfuls. It was traditionally made with beef shin, but this smoked haddock chowder stole the reputation and is now nestled contentedly among Scotland’s best known dishes and our go-to winter warmers.
You’ll first find it called ‘Cullen skink’ in F. Marian McNeill's 1929 book The Scots Kitchen, pinning it to Cullen, a village in Moray blessed with stunning beaches. Way before that, though, the traditional east coast fishwives' recipe revived frigid fisherman after a hard day's work (perfect for winter camping, then). You'll often find it served thick with cream but the recipe should really only include a splash of milk, getting its creaminess from floury potatoes – we can’t justify the super-rich version if it was considered a bit much after a February day out on the boats...
To make this a complete one-pot cook up we've added spring onion and spinach to the classic recipe. Use whatever greens you can find: kale, broccoli, fresh peas, sliced cabbage (add this a minute before the haddock and spring onion so it softens), even pak choi. Go with smoked haddock fillets if you're cooking for young children: an authentic ‘Finnan haddie’ has better flavour but is harder to totally strip of bones. We used an Eyemouth pale cure haddock, a local speciality that kicks this dish way out of ‘just soup’ territory.
- About 300g smoked haddock (traditionally Finnan haddie), flaked into bite-sized chunks – this equals the flesh of one decent sized haddock
- 1 white onion, finely sliced
- 6 spring onions, finely chopped
- 4 handfuls fresh spinach (about 200g)
- 800g floury potatoes, e.g. Maris Piper, cut into - 1cm cubes - don't bother skinning them
- 1L vegetable or chicken stock, from a cube or bouillon
- 150ml whole milk
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Black pepper
Melt the butter in a large saucepan, then add the onion and sweat for about five minutes until it starts to soften.
Add the potatoes and stock, and crack in a generous amount of black pepper. Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer until the potatoes are almost soft, about fifteen minutes. Top tip: Don't add salt; the haddock and the stock cube/powder will both be salty.
Tip in the flaked haddock, spinach and spring onions. Stir, bring back to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes until the fish is hot, the potatoes soft and the spinach well wilted. Pour in the milk and bring the temperature back up until piping, but don't allow it to boil.
- Serve immediately; it is substantial enough to have on its own but you’ll want bread and butter if you share our appetites!
Be sure to drop us a line if you try this great recipe. We'd love to know if you like it!