Cullen Skink – Smoked Fish Soup from Scotland


Just had a very good week in Glasgow, apart from the weather, that it is. Our neighbour’s son, Roddy is a sculptor and one of his works, Cleitus, lives in their garden. I think that I should have lent him an overcoat:


Storms Jonas and Gertrude paid visits one day after the other bringing very high winds and some snow. Amazingly this foul weather, the sort that could have been conjured up by Macbeth’s witches, didn’t seem to deter the audience at the concert with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. They are a wonderful group who played Haydn and Mozart with glee and gusto. This sort of music is very different from the high cholesterol stuff they usually perform. Jonathan Biss was the superb soloist in Mozart’s endlessly inventive Piano Concerto K. 271. It is always such a treat to work with him. We’ve done Mendelssohn before but never Mozart.

After the show, as the wind howled and the rain enveloped us we went across the street from the concert hall to a favourite place of mine, Café Gandolfi. Not only are the food and wine terrific but the place is truly beautiful as you can see:


All the furniture is specially designed so there truly is no place like it.

One of my favourite things there is a Scottish smoked fish soup called Cullen Skink. Cullen is a port on the East Coast of Scotland. Skink has nothing to do with lizards but is a local term for something made originally with ham, something this dish does not have. It is most similar to a chowder. Here is the Café Gandolfi recipe from their website. It is perfect when the weather is as grim as it was when I was there and, of course, when it is nicer too!



20 minutes


30 minutes


4 people



4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
300ml double cream
300ml wholemilk
250ml water
300g smoked haddock
60g butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
Pinch of mace or nutmeg
Black pepper


In a saucepan large enough to take all the ingredients, sauté the onion in butter and oil until soft.
Add the water to the pan along with the potatoes and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the milk and cream and simmer for a further 5 – 10 minutes until the potatoes are tender.
Cut the Haddock into 2cm squares and drop into the soup. Continue to cook gently for 10 minutes.
Check seasoning and add the mace or nutmeg.
Serve and enjoy!

Nicholas McGegan