A creamy smoked fish and potato soup, known in Scotland as cullen skink, rarely fails to be supremely soothing and comforting. This very simple but utterly delicious example can be knocked up in little more than half an hour.
300g smoked pollack or smoked haddock fillet
650ml fish or vegetable stock
A large knob of butter
2 large leeks, trimmed, washed and finely sliced*
500g potatoes, peeled and cut into 4–5mm cubes
4 tablespoons double cream
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Finely chopped parsley, to finish (optional)
1. Put the fish in a saucepan and add the stock. Bring slowly to a boil, then immediately turn off the heat, flip the fish over in the pan, cover and leave for 3 minutes. Turn the fish over again and check if it is cooked – the flesh should all be opaque and flake easily from the skin. If it’s not quite done, leave it in the covered pan for a couple of minutes longer. Once cooked, lift it out of the pan onto a board, reserving the stock. Take the fish off the skin in large flakes, checking for any bones as you go.
2. Heat the butter in a large pan over medium-low heat. Add the leeks and sweat gently for about 10 minutes until soft. Add the potatoes and reserved stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes until the potatoes are tender.
3. Stir in the cream and flakes of smoked fish. Reheat gently, without boiling, then taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Ladle into warm bowls and finish with a scattering of parsley if you like. Serve at once, with brown bread and butter on the side.
*Swaps – If you don’t have leeks, but you do have spring onions, or even regular onions, you can happily use them instead. Trim and slice a couple of good bunches of spring onions and sweat for 5 minutes only. Or finely slice 2 large onions and sweat for 12–15 minutes, until soft and tender.
See more of Gill Meller’s favourite comfort food recipes