Monday, 23 April 2012

Wallow in a bowl of sheer luxury

This is a traditional Scottish dish know as Cullen Skink and if you don’t know it, now is the time to try it. I first tasted it while in Nairn, visiting my niece. Her husband Tony is a great cook and this is one of his specialities which he was keen for me to try. I was keen to try it as smoked haddock is a favourite fish and I was researching Cured at the time and keen to find just the right recipe to showcase this wonderful ingredient.
Cullen Skink is creamy; some of the potato is liquidised with the milk before serving, delicately smoky and succulent; the recipe uses the thickest part of the best natural smoked haddock, colourful and luxurious; tinted with saffron and totally satisfying and healthy.
As a big fan of smoked haddock I was knocked out by it. It is a hearty dish yet totally suited to spring time, just wait until you see the colour! If you are serving it as a starter, keep the portions small; it works well as a one course lunch dish with some decent bread. If you live within striking distance of Ross-on-Wye, Cirencester or Newent I highly recommend Donna and Robert’s market fish stalls; their smoked haddock is exceptional as is all the fish they sell. They are there from early morning until lunch time but it is essential to make an early visit to benefit from the full range of beautifully fresh fish.

Creamy saffron-laced smoked haddock chowder, served with parsley and chives
serves 4

600ml milk
1 small onion or shallot studded with 6 cloves
Generous pinch of saffron threads
400g natural smoked haddock, preferably the thick middle part
1 ½ tablespoons of butter or olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
175g potatoes peeled and cut into small cubes
Black pepper

For serving
Extra milk
Chopped parsley and chives

Put the milk in a saucepan with the clove studded onion and a generous pinch of saffron strands. Bring the milk to simmering point, switch off the heat and leave to stand for 1 hour for the flavours to infuse.
After this time bring the milk to simmering point again, add the haddock and gently poach for 3 minutes. Transfer the fish to a plate and carefully flake with a fork, discarding the skin and bones, then cover and reserve. Strain the milk and reserve.
Melt the butter or heat the oil in a saucepan, adding the chopped onion and cook until soft. Add the cubed potato and cook for 2 minutes. Add the strained milk and simmer gently until the potato is tender (say 20 minutes). Reserve half of the potato cubes for later use and transfer the remaining vegetables and milk to a blender and blend until creamy. Add black pepper.
When ready to serve, gently reheat the soup, taking care not to let it curdle. If the soup is very thick it may be necessary to dilute it with extra milk. Divide the reserved haddock and potato between 6 warmed dishes and pour the soup on top. Sprinkle with snipped chives and chopped parsley and serve at once.

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