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Thursday 23 January 2014

Sluttishly Savoury: Whisky Cullen Skink

Much like Caleigh and her amazingly hearty Stovies, I've been releasing my inner Scottish foodie this week thanks to the fact that Burns night is fast approaching. So in honour of the first proper Robert Burns night I can recall attending with my family in Dunoon (when I was just a wee bairn), here is the deliciously buttery smoked haddock soup that we supped from my Auntie's thermos upon that chilly night. The Cullen Skink.

Cullen refers to the town where this rich soup originates from and Skink is actually an old Scots word referring to a shin or shank beef but over time has became synonymous with soup. It does not derive from the word 'Stink' as I delighted in singing when I was little, much to the annoyance of my very patient Auntie. It's so easy to make and surprisingly quick for a soup that starts out with making your own stock. Which, by the way, I have found is greatly improved with the addition of a good glug of Scottish whisky!

Whisky Cullen Skink (serves 4)
You'll need:
For the stock
  • 50g butter
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 leek, roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, halved
  • 1 fennel bulb, roughly chopped (but keep any green leafy bits for a garnish)
  • 2 stalks of tarragon, bruised a bit
  • 125ml fine Scottish Whisky (or white wine if the amber tipple is unavailable)
  • 375ml vegetable stock, those gel pots or cubes are fine.
  • 300g skinless and boneless smoked haddock, left as whole fillets for now
For the soup
  • 50g butter (more butter!)
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 leek, finely chopped
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloved, crushed
  • 1 large potato, diced into small even cubes
  • handful of tarragon, finely chopped
  • 250ml double cream
  • good shake of white pepper and nutmeg
  • handful chopped parsley and  fennel leaves, to garnish
Make it!
  1. For the stock, start by melting the butter with the oil in a pan over a medium low heat and add the leek, onion, fennel and garlic and stir over the heat for a few minutes until they get nice and soft.
  2. Add the tarragon and whisky and bring to the boil briefly. Add the vegetable stock and allow it to come up to the boil again before lowering the heat to a simmer.
  3. Gently submerge the haddock fillets in the stock and pop a lid on, leave to simmer very gently for about half an hour.
  4. Now comes the tricky bit, try to remove the haddock fillets from the pan whole. If they've fallen to pieces into the stock (like mine did), don't worry. Just strain the stock through a colander into a clean bowl, allow the veg and haddock to cool a bit and then just dig out the lovely hunks of haddock from the colander and set to one side.
  5. For the soup, start again by melting the butter with the oil and gently fry the leek, shallots and garlic till softened.
  6. Add your diced potatoes and half the haddock and give it all a good stir, letting it cook for another minute.
  7. Pour in your delicious buttery stock, add the tarragon and bring to the boil briefly before lowering it down to a simmer and letting it cook away for about 10-15 mins with the lid on until the potatoes are soft.
  8. Take it off the heat and pour in the cream, now give the whole mixture a good blending with a hand blender (you can use a proper blender but be careful as this stuff is hot. Attacking it with a potato masher is also acceptable if no blending machine is to be had).
  9. Add the pepper and nutmeg and give it a taste, add more if needed.
  10. Now ladle it steaming into bowls, adding the reserved cooked haddock to each serving with a sprinkling of parsley and fennel leaves. Serve with chunks of crusty bread or better yet some gluten free oatcakes and a wee dram of whisky! 

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