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Cullen Skink the Scottish Fish Stew

Cullen Skink the Scottish Fish Stew

Cullen Skink, or fish stew with smoked haddock, is a Scottish tradition and Chef Jenny Thomson demonstrated how to make a quick and hearty pot during her hands-on culinary class.
By MLiss A Hinshaw

A scenic drive from Edinburgh, crossing the Forth Road Bridge and arriving into the Kingdom of Fife, Jenny Thomson lives with her family and holds cooking classes in her kitchen surrounded by 2 lush acres. Chef Jenny ran her own restaurant for 15 years and after selling the restaurant, she began teaching classes in her 18th century Victorian home outfitted with a modern kitchen. She grows her own herbs and raises bees for honey to ensure fresh and seasonal ingredients.

Thomson Victorian Home

Legend has it, Cullen Skink originated in the fishing village of Cullen, a northeast chilly part of Scotland.  The Gaelic name for the stew means essence but has taken on many different meanings over the years.  One thing is for sure, the basics of milk, butter and potatoes make a stick to your ribs stew.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Scotland without nibbling on shortbread cookies while Chef Jenny showed us how to shape the buttery shortbread dough like an Elizabethan petticoat tail.  She said it is important not to “fiddle” with it too much as it makes the dough greasy.  Lemon, sage, vanilla and ginger were ready to add if one wanted to perk up the flavors of this Scottish standard biscuit.

Shaping shortbread into petticoat tail

See Also
Plokkfiskur: Icelandic Fish Stew

The best was yet to come with eating our freshly prepared meal in her lovely dining room where a bottle of Scotch whisky waited for us to take home.

Lunch is served

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Cullen Skink the Scottish Fish Stew

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  • Yield: 4 servings 1x


  • 500g or 1lb undyed smoked haddock fillets
  • 1 medium onion peeled and sliced
  • 900ml or 1 1/2pints whole milk
  • 1 large floury potato – peeled and diced
  • 1oz or 30g butter
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • Chives and parsley to garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Melt the butter in a large pan and cook the onion until soft. Add the potato, bay leaf,
  2. a good grating of nutmeg and the milk and simmer for about 15 min, or until the
  3. potato is almost cooked.
  4. Cut the haddock into 2 or 3 pieces and add to the pan. Simmer for 10 min or less until
  5. the fish is cooked.
  6. Remove the fish to a plate and once cool enough to handle, remove the skin and flake
  7. the fish gently.
  8. Use a potato masher to crush the potatoes in the soup. Remove the bay leaf and add
  9. the fish back to the pan. Stir. Season and bring the soup back to a simmer.
  10. Stir in the chives and serve garnished with chopped parsley.

More information about Chef Jenny’s classes can be found at and

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