So, Christmas has come and Christmas has gone and I’m left poorer and fatter, yet full of seasonal cheer. As is tradition, myself and Mr. Cay spent it in our usual manner – eating, drinking, and searching for the number of NHS Direct whilst pissed because (after all), the festive season just wouldn’t be the festive season without one minor medical emergency. Whereas last year it was because I’d gotten a little too merry on the sherry and chopped my finger off whilst making roast potatoes, this time it was the turn of Mr. Cay who has developed a cracking dental abscess, which has led to half of his face swelling up and him being nigh on incapable of swallowing solids.
Because we are nothing if not resourceful, we weren’t going to let anything as minor as a bit of mouth knack ruin our Christmas dinner. So, I did what anyone would have done under the circumstances – dose the fella up with as much Bruichladdich as humanly possible, and serve him a (practically) liquid Christmas dinner. Whilst he may not have been able to enjoy any roast potatoes cooked in sizzling Iberico pork fat, he was at least able to get his potato fix with a large streaming bowl of Cullen Skink.
There is something wonderfully comforting about Cullen Skink – a traditional Scottish soup comprising of cream, potatoes and smoked haddock. Hearty and warming, it reminds me slightly of the chowders you find being served up at restaurants across the East Coast of the USA – tailor made to stick to your ribs on a cold night. Best of all, it’s the kind of thing you can make out of all the leftover Christmas dinner ingredients you may find mouldering away at the back of your fridge – that wrinkly stinky onion and forlorn shrivelled leek. Whilst some recipes suggest that you mash the potatoes prior to adding them to the broth, I worried that this may give the soup a ‘gluey’ texture, so merely diced them instead.
There’s no hard and fast rule about making this, and it’s the kind of dish that can easily be adapted to the ingredients that you may have on hand. Don’t skimp on the smoked haddock though. Its smokiness really does make this dish, so use the best that you can afford. We ate ours with nothing more than a sprinkle of fresh parsley, a crack of black pepper, and a shot of the best Scotch our pay packets could buy.
You will need:
- Two fillets of undyed smoked haddock, chopped
- Two potatoes, peeled and cubed (I used Rooster potatoes, as they are quite firm, and retain their shape well when cooked)
- One onion, finely diced
- One leek, washed and sliced
- 250ml fish stock (if you’re really pushed, you can buy some fresh white fish stock from any major supermarket, but if possible, do make your own out of leftover haddock bones and skin)
- 300ml double cream
- Two bay leaves
- A sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley for garnish
- Sweat the onions and leeks in a tablespoon of oil until they turn translucent. Add the potatoes and cook for a minute or so until they have just begun to colour slightly.
- Add the fish stock, the bay leaves and 150ml of double cream. Bring to the boil and cook until the potatoes have softened slightly (there should be a slight bit of give when you insert a knife into them).
- Flake the chopped smoked haddock into the pot. Add the rest of the cream, season and simmer for another ten minutes.
- Strain the bay leaves out of the pot, and serve immediately with fresh parsley and lots of black pepper.