Seatown of Cullen
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Living on Scotland's east coast, as winter resists giving way to spring, we often find ourselves returning from bracing coastal walks in search of a heart-warming soup, served in a big bowl or hand-warming mug! Here's one of our favourites...
Traditionally served in the north east of Scotland as a creamy chowder rich with pieces of leek, potato and flakes of smoked haddock, this is my take on cullen skink, puréed until wonderfully smooth, then garnished with smoked haddock and wilted leeks. The addition of garam masala is far from traditional but does add lovely warm undertones of spice to the dish.
3 medium fillets of undyed smoked haddock
750 ml milk
5 peppercorns, lightly crushed
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions
2 small leeks
1 large potato
1 teaspoon garam masala
Place the haddock fillets in a pan that will take them in one layer - a large frying pan is good. Pour over the milk so that they are just covered. Add the crushed peppercorns, bay leaf and the cloves. Over a gentle heat, bring to a gentle simmer and cook until the fillets are translucent - this will only take a few minutes. Set to one side to cool slightly.
Chop the onion roughy and sweat in a saucepan with the olive oil, and a little salt and pepper. While the onion is softening, chop the white of the leek into rough dice, and cut the green of the leek into matchsticks (for garnish later). Add the leek to the onions and continue to gently cook. Now peel the potato and cut into small cubes (the smaller the cubes, the quicker you'll be done, minute equals less minutes!). Once the leeks and onion are soft, add the butter, the garam masala and the potatoes, and cook for a few minutes. Keep an eye on it at this stage, as it can catch on the base of the pan.
Gently take the fish out of the poaching milk, and drain off the aromatics. Now add the haddock-infused milk to the vegetables. If it looks thin or too thick , you can keep some aside or add some more milk - use your judgement and think about how you like your soup to be. Remember that the starch from the potato will thicken the soup as it cooks. Simmer gently until the potato is cooked.
Flake half of the haddock into the soup and blend using a hand blender. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and add milk while blending if too thick.
When you are ready to serve, stir fry the reserved leek tops in a little olive oil. Warm the remaining haddock fillets in a covered dish in the oven. Heat the soup and ladle into bowls before topping with the bright green leeks and the flakes of warm smoked haddock. Add a drizzle of double cream for a luxurious finishing touch.
Recipe created by James, Head Chef @ The Elemental Kitchen.