Cullen Skink (Scottish Fish Soup) and Glasgow

Cullen Skink – a Scottish gentleman told me about the unfamiliar dish long time ago.

near Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye

Once I studied Scottish history. Unlike today, it was much harder to collect primary source records from outside the UK. One day an ad on the Scots Magazine I was subscribing caught  my eyes, then faxed an enquiry to the secondhand bookshop in Glasgow (email was not yet common those days!) . Very luckily,  the owner made his best endeavour for me and found out a useful material, which was more than I had expected, and besides, even a research book on my study!

catalogues he found for me
Scottish Lion Rampant on the back

In the following year, he and his girlfriend kindly invited me to their place for dinner while I was doing some research in Glasgow. At the table, he told me about his favourite Scottish dish and explained how tasty Cullen Skink is. The name sounded really weird to me (skink? stink?? stinky soup???), but it turned out some time later that he was absolutely right, and it attracted my appetite as well!

City of Glasgow's Coat of Arms
‘Let Glasgow Flourish’ : City of Glasgow’s Coat of Arms with its motto @ Loch Katrine – the waterworks linking the loch to the city was officially opened by Queen Victoria in 1859.

This is the story of Cullen Skink and I. The soup reminds me of him whenever I eat it, but unfortunately, I have lost his contact. I cannot say thank him enough because I couldn’t have completed my thesis without those materials, which gave me lots of ideas and helped to construct the argument.

Here is my recipe. I used smoked salmon in place of smoked haddock because salmon appears in Glasgow’s Coat of Arms (see the pic above)… I’m kidding 😀  The truth is that smoked haddock is not available here… tried fresh fish instead and even smoked it myself, but both were something different!  So I followed the one I had at a restaurant in Isle of Skye, and smoked salmon worked so well!!


cullen skink



(for 2-3 servings)

3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
550 ml whole milk (ideally non-homogenised)
200 g smoked salmon
1 bay leaf
15 g butter
1 large French shallot (eschallot), peeled and finely chopped
1/2 leek, thinly chopped
50 ml white wine
2 tbsp sour cream
salt and pepper (to taste)
chives, finely chopped (to sprinkle)


cullen skink w/ Scots Magazine



  1. Put the potatoes into a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil over medium heat and cook until soft. Drain well and dry them out tossing continuously over medium heat. Take a third  out of the pan and set aside. Mash the rest and pour in 50 ml milk, then whisk for a few minutes on low heat or until fluffy.
  2. Place the salmon in a pan with 300 ml milk and bay leaf. Gently bring to the boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat and poach in the milk for 5 minutes. Take the fish out and strain the stock. Break the fish into flakes and set aside.
  3. Melt the butter in a frying pan on lower heat and sauté the shallot and leek until tender. Add the wine and simmer for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Pour the fish stock into a pot with the rest of milk, the sautéed leek mixture and the mashed potatoes. Blend well over medium heat and bring to the gentle simmer, then reduce the heat. Add the diced potatoes and the fish. Reheat gently for a couple of minutes but not overcook the fish. Stir in the sour cream and season to taste.
  5. Serve in a warm bowl with chives.



Cullen Skink @ View Restaurant
cullen skink @ the View Restaurant in Skye (March 2013) I will ask for the recipe next time 🙂


MUST EAT in Glasgow

Afternoon tea at the Butterfly and the Pig

afternoon tea @ the Butterfly & the Pig


MUST SEE in Glasgow

Architecture and designs by Charles Rennie Mackintosh

willow tea rooms
Another option for tea @ the Willow Tea Rooms

The Glasgow School of Art (NB: No visitor access to the interiors  due to the damage by fire in May 2014. What a disaster!!!!) and the Hill House (in Helensburgh – about 50 min train ride away from Glasgow Queen St Station. Check with ScotRail) are highly recommended!


Scotland’s favourite painting: Dali’s Christ of St John of the Cross

If you visit Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum to see the painting, you may want to have a stroll in beautiful Kelvingrove Park where the gallery located. The park was designed by Joseph Paxton who also designed the Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London. If you learn the history of the museum and the park – about Charles Rennie Mackintosh as well, you would also learn how Glasgow enjoyed its prosperity in Victorian and Edwardian periods.

cullen skink


12 thoughts on “Cullen Skink (Scottish Fish Soup) and Glasgow

  1. My mother introduced me to this dish – she was from Scotland. I had completely forgotten about it, and I thank you for the reminder. Your version looks delicious.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hahaha Cullen Skink – it really is such a strange name, and it put me off for a long time. In Australia a skink is a type of small lizard, and I just couldn’t get the image of lizard soup out of my head! I am still yet to try it, but became a big fan of smoked haddock on our recent trip to Skye! Will need to try it next time for sure!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s