What is Cullen Skink?

Cullen skink is a thick Scottish soup traditionally made of smoked haddock (preferably undyed), potatoes and onions and takes its name from the town of Cullen in Moray, on the northeast coast of Scotland.

Various recipes for Cullen skink exists and chefs and cooks from around Scotland and the world have put their own spin on the recipe to make their own distinct versions.

This includes the use of milk instead of water or the addition of single cream. Other variations include mashing the potatoes to make the soup thicker.

Cullen skink is seen to be generally smokier than its American cousin, chowder, and heartier than the classical French bisque.

In 2012 a Guardian columnist described the dish as “the milky fish soup which has surely replaced your haggises and porridges as Scotland’s signature dish”.

Traditionally, Cullen Skink referred to a type of broth made with the scrapings of beef from the front legs of cattle with Skink being a Scots word for a shin, knuckle, or hough of beef.

With fish being more readily available in the late Nineteenth century the meat was replaced by fish as Cullen and the Moray Firth coast had become the thriving centre of herring fishing and Cullen also specialised in the production of smoked haddock.

With many families in the local villages having a fishing background, they turned to smoked haddock which was in plentiful supply. By using smoked haddock and various other products all put together, a distinctive delicious soup was made.

Hence Cullen Skink was born.

In January 1999 BBC2 sent a team from their popular Food and Drink programme, accompanied by presenter Michael Barry, to film a Cullen Skink competition by local housewives. Five ladies were duly selected and the television cameras rolled into the kitchens of the Seafield Arms Hotel. After much deliberation and tasting, the panel of judges chose Mrs Mary Addison as the winner and she was crowned the “Queen of Cullen Skink”.