Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Smoked Haddock & Leek Chowder aka Cullen Skink

My experince with smoked fish is pretty much limited to smoked salmon in its many forms... Recently I had some smoked halibut, which was totally mild and devine...but that is about it.  There is a huge selection of smoked fish here in the UK and it is used in many traditional dishes and from what I have observed it is mainly purchased by the older population (at least in Chelmsford).  I don't know if it is the yellow dye that has put me off until now, or a fear of the unknown...but a recent recipe "find" for smoked haddock chowder had me searching high and low for UNDYED smoked fish yesterday. 

It isn't easy to find undyed smoked fish here in Chelmsford.  For some reason (and probably due to the older population being the market for the fish) there is an abundance of dyed smoked fish.  I've been told that the deep yellow colour is something that was origianally created through the dyeing process and then later on an actual dye was added to maintain the image of the smoked fish, and now it is added purely to make the fish "look like it always has"...basically to provide comfort to the older generation who grew up on the stuff.  Luckily the fishmonger in the covered market had some lovely (albeit pricey) UNDYED oak smoked haddock!!

Armed with my gigantic piece of smoked fish I headed home to make this simple, and from what I have found out traditionally Scottish, meal...CULLEN SKINK.  The translation in my recipe calls this soup a chowder (yum! I love and crave a good new england seafood chowder!) but it isn't really like a north american bacon, no thickener...

I don't usually post recipes, but I really think that this is one worth sharing and worth trying!!  On reflection, if I hadn't been able to find undyed smoked haddock I could have just used fresh haddock and cooked it a few minutes longer.  The taste would have been different...the milk has an almost sweet smokey flavour from poaching the fish...but I think it would have been equally as nice!

Smoked Haddock & Leek Chowder

15 g butter
3 leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced
500g potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 litre semi skimmed milk (or whole milk if you want it a bit creamier)
400 g undyed smoked haddock fillet, skinned and cubed (You could use unsmoke haddock and just simmer for a bit longer when you add the fish)
3 tbsp chopped chives

1. Heat the butter in a large stock pot and add leeks.  Cook over low heat for 6-7 minutes until really soft, but not browned.
2. Add the potato cubes and cook, stirring for abotu 2 minutes.
3. Add milk, bring to boil and simmer for about 15 mins until potatoes are just about cooked through.
4. Add fish and simmer for about 5 minutes until fish cooked through.
5. Season and stir through chives.  Serve with crusty bread or Scottish Oatcakes.

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