It was half an hour into the performance when fourteen year old Lewis whispered to me: “Miss, is this seriously two and a half hours of singing and dancing cats?” When I nodded an affirmative his eyes widened then momentarily flicked towards the lit green exit sign to my right.
“Don’t even think about it,” I hissed threateningly. “If I have to sit through this, so do you.”
Cats, it turned out, really wasn’t my cup of tea at all. Cracking songs, great dancing and a jaw-droppingly beautiful set, but my imagination simply wasn’t captured. Luckily, myself and bored Lewis were in the minority; the vast majority of the kids adored the performance and were high as kites afterwards. Even caught a few of them today walking down corridors humming Magical Mr Mistoffelees. Love it! 🙂
Despite my misgivings about Cats, I felt like a feline themed dinner this evening. What do cats like, I wondered. Fish and milk, of course. And fish and milk can mean only one thing to a Scot: Cullen Skink.
Cullen Skink is a hearty, Scottish fish soup. It’s namesake, Cullen, is an adorable maritime village on the north-east coast, not too far from here. What “skink” means, I’m not sure. Some books claim it is from the Gaelic meaning “essence” but when I asked a Gaelic speaker about this today she claimed that was rubbish and that perhaps it was from a Norse language. Chatted to a Swedish friend but all to no avail: I am still none the wiser. Anyone out there know?
(serves 2 as a main, 6 as a starter)
Knob of butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 undyed, naturally smoked haddock fillets
1 pint of milk
1 bay leaf
1 very large potato, peeled and diced into 1cm cubes
Double cream (25 – 50ml)
- Melt the butter in a heavy based pan. Add the onion and celery and cook gently until softened.
- Add the haddock fillets to the pan and just cover with milk. Bring up to simmering point and cook for 4 minutes.
- Remove the fish from the pan and reserve.
- Add the potatoes to the pan and the remaining milk. Bring up to simmering point and cook for 10 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through.
- Meanwhile, flake the haddock fillets using your hands.
- When potatoes are cooked, use a slotted spoon to remove some potato/onion/celery chunks from the soup.
- Add most of haddock to the soup, reserving a little with the vegetable chunks.
- Liquidise the soup until silky smooth. Season very carefully and add cream to taste. Heat gently then pour into bowls.
- Add some of the vegetable chunks and haddock to the soup and sprinkle with chives.
The name may not be appetizing but your cullen skink looks positively tasty.
Smoked fish and cream, so warm and soothing. I can’t wait to try this!
Lovely soup, Wendy. I’ll have to try this.
Thanks for you nice comment. I have fully recovered and will get back to posting soon.
Simple, hearty good food. This is a must make recipe if I’ve ever read one. And, it may very well be the most entertainingly-named food item I’ve heard of recently.
Well, I’m none the wiser, but will keep checking back in case someone can answer it.
Cats? I hate musicals. I have tried. Believe me.
I’m sure T.S Eliot’s cats would be more than happy to receive a bowl of this. Love smoked haddock…
Cynthia – No, its not a very nice name. Never thought of that before!
Rosa – Let me know how it goes…
Christine – Glad to hear it. 🙂
Christina – I’m so used to the name I’ve never really though about how weird it sounds! Feel like I’m hearing it for the first time again.
Lucy – Hoping it will be answered too. I’m quite partial to an occasional musical but it must have a good story to it. Singing and dancing alone does nothing for me.
Wendy, one soup of this for me please!!!!Gloria
What an interesting name for this dish. The picture looks warm and smooth. Anything with a milk or cream base and seafood has my name written all over it;)
Bookmarked to try! What more can I say? 🙂
Gloria – 🙂
Lydia – I’m a cream fan too. 🙂
Maninas – Let me know how it goes!
Hi Wendy, I was also disappointed when I saw CATS many years ago in London. I was so pumped up but it didn’t meet my expectations. My all time fav musical is Les Miserables. I sang the songs for many weeks after ( i don’t think my family appreciated that, lol!).
I am curious about the origin of this soup, but I’m afraid I know nothing about it. Chives in a creamy soup is yummy!
Nora – “Les Mis” is my favourite too! Goodness, did I cry at that one…
The chives in the soup work really nicely but they aren’t traditional.
Sorry you didn’t like Cats. I have never seen it and have never been sure if I would like it either.
Les Mis is absolutely my favorite and I have been lucky enough to have my girls play in it (as little Cosette, and the other daughter as the understudy) and also to see it in London.
I love the soup name too! It’s interesting to read about Scottish cooking since my daughter will be going to Scotland this year.
This is one of my favourite soups. I have just made a smoked fish pie which has the same comforting qualitites, I guess, but I am rather wishing I had made your soup instead!
I love musicals but was similarly disappointed by Cats. Glad I’m not the only one.
Betty C – “Les Mis” is my favourite too! It’s wonderful.
Antonia – I adore fish pie. May have to make it this week now you’ve put the idea into my head… 🙂
Too bad about “Cats”. I have heard alot about it but have not attended.
Your soup sounds so comforting and looks so smooth! The fish stew I make is tomato based. I must try yours!
Deb – Beware, this is a heavy, heavy soup! A meal in itself.
Ah, so this is the famous Cullen Skink you referred to in a comment you left on my blog. Looks creamy and robust. Intrigued, as always, I found a NY Times article on it. I’ll email it to you. It’s a lot of fun even if it doesn’t exactly answer skink’s origin – hard as it tries to.
Susan – Yup, this is it. Robust is certainly the right word! Looking forward to that article. 🙂
I love Cullen Skink! Yum! I ate it as often as I could when I was in Scotland – you Scots really have the best named soups – Cock-a-Leekie, Cullen Skink, etc. Great stuff!
I speak Norwegian and I don’t recognize the word, so I am not sure about the Norse bit, but I think this is worth further research! We HAVE to know what it means!
Oh and I didn’t love Cats when I saw it either – but I love actual cats. 🙂
JennDZ – If I find out where the work comes from I’ll be sure to let you know!
I’m no musical fan *at all* in general. But I did have a lovely time with Singin’ in the rain some weeks ago – and I do love the movie! – it was years ago I saw Cats, but I think I quite liked it. It was a good casting and that Memories-ballade brings me to tears every single time…
That soup sounds delicious!
Pia – “Memories” was beautiful, I agree.
Skink is swedish for ham, also shared with a North American Lizard (Though I doubt the lizard has anything to do with this soup. :D)
Hi would you mind letting me know which hosting company
you’re using? I’ve loaded your blog in 3 completely different browsers and I must say this blog loads a lot quicker then most. Can you recommend a good web hosting provider at a reasonable price? Many thanks, I appreciate it!
Wendy, I would love to make this soup, but can’t get smoked haddocks here in Vancouver. Your Aunt Anne and Uncle Campbell did, however, take my daughter, Avril and I for lunch and I had smoked haddock with mashed potatoes two years ago when we were in Scotland (my homeland).
I love your blog. Your pictures are great. Only problem – makes me homesick!!!
Hello June! Thanks for the lovely comments. You could try the soup with another smoked white fish, perhaps? It’s the smokey flavour that is particularly distinctive.
Pingback: Finnan Haddie Tart (And Exciting News) | A Wee Bit of Cooking
How much butter is a “knob” of butter?
About a teaspoon 🙂
Just 12 years late to the party, but for what it’s worth…
Skink is a Scots word for a shin, knuckle, or hough of beef, which has developed the secondary meaning of a soup, especially one made from these. The word skink is ultimately derived from the Middle Dutch schenke “shin, hough”.