Cullen Skink: Scotland’s Best EVER Soup Dish is Och!

Cullen Skink soup by Baxters
Thanks to Baxters for this image!

Cullen skink is a Scottish dish that’s not really along the lines of haggis or deep fried Mars Bars. However, it holds its own in the world of foodstuffs from Scotland.

It’s a soup! Do you like that? Good! As this one has a reputation for being mega tasty and epic. You may well want to introduce this SOB to your life.

What’s Cullen Skink?

It’s a soup consisting of smoked haddock, potatoes, and onions.

The most authentic way to go about the fish is by finnan haddie, which is a process of cold-smoking the haddock ahead of insertion into the soupy liquid.

That’s it! The soup is tasty as can be, for sure, but its history is also rather interesting to learn about.

What’s the History of Cullen Skink?

Cullen Skink hails from the wee village of Cullen in Moray, Scotland.

It’s a beautiful area, right next to the coast on the North East of the Scottish region of the UK. Heck, just looking at it makes us want to visit. Och!

There’s a very active tourism initiative for the area. Take a look at its recent Twitter post!

But Cullen delivered a soup to the world! And that’s what we’re here to explore.

Its bizarre name comes the Scottish word for shin/knuckle. And that’s taken from the Middle Dutch “schenke”. The West Germanic dialects were spoken between 1150 and 1500, indicating just how far back the dish must date.

Over time, it developed into the term for this soup.

We like it as it’s so pleasantly close to stink. And as fish is in the soup, we guess it could be called cullen stink on certain days.

However, as oppose to the Middle Dutch explanation, on the official Discover Cullen website it makes the following claim:

“This rather odd name is said to come from the Gaelic word ‘Essence’. Initially, Cullen Skink referred to a type of broth made with the scrapings of beef from the front legs of cattle. Hard times in the early 1890s left the Northern people unable to buy this product. By this time, Cullen Harbour (completed in 1819) had become the thriving centre of herring fishing and the village 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.”

Hence, indeed! Therefore, as previously indicated, it’s essential we have a Cullen Skink World Championship to determine the excellence of the soup!

The Cullen Skink World Championships

There are foodie events like this all over the UK. It’s something of a national pastime for all of us. We guess it’s the same everywhere across the world. Humans like food!

In Blighty, there’s Wigan’s World Pie Eating Championships and Middlesbrough’s World Parmo Championships. To name two!

It’s only natural Scotland would want to compete with those.

You can read about the championship on the dedicated Cullen Skink website. Och!

“The Cullen Skink World Championships is organised by Cullen Voluntary Tourist Initiative, with the event usually taking place at the Cullen Bay Hotel. Spectators are welcome to the event.

Two competitions are held on the day; the Traditional Cullen Skink and Cullen Skint with a Twist and contestants can enter either or both competitions.”

Believe it not, but judges determine the winner based on which entry is the tastiest. Who’d have thought it, eh?

The last event appears to have been in 2020. Pandemic permitting, we hope a new one is able to skink its way into existence in 2022.

How Do You Make Cullen Skink?

If you’re desperate to get this soup together, you can refer to What’s For Tea? above. What a fine Scottish accent, eh?

The ingredients you’ll need are:

1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
1 medium onion
2 medium potatoes
250 grams of smoked haddock
250 millilitres of whole milk
Finely chopped parsley or chives

Yeah, so… you just make it. And then you eat it. After that, you’ll forever have a Scottish accent! Good news all round.

The Guardian did a thoroughly detailed explanation on how to cook the perfect cullen skink. That was back in 2012! To note:

“Cullen skink. Not a promising name for a soup, in all honesty – I think Dickens missed a trick by not borrowing it for one of his villains – but one sniff and you’ll be won over. Stuffed full of warming wintery ingredients like smoked fish and starchy potatoes, made rich and comforting with milk or cream, it never fails to cheer, even in the darkest days of January.”

It’s a massively detailed piece for such a simplistic sounding soup.

But we feel this one will reverberate through the millennia. End of the universe? There’ll be a bowl of cullen skink there watching as everything implode. And it’ll be delicious!

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