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Baxters Cullen Skink

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      01.02.2008 23:17

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      We encountered Baxters' Cullen Skink by accident while visiting Scotland in September, 2007. We are from Ontario, Canada, but my mother grew up in Kirkcaldy, and I was born there. Mom, who is now 85, asked us to accompany her to Scotland for one last trip, so one of my brothers, our wives and my mother arrived in West Wemyss, just east of Kirkcaldy on September 12. We were in Aberdour at a small tea room when I noticed "Cullen Skink" on the menu. I asked the waitress what it was, and she told me, but advised that it was not available that day. A few days later we were shopping in Kirkcaldy, and there it was - Baxters' Cullen Skink. We had to try it, and did that very night. It was great!
      Now I'm trying to find it in Canada. The stores here carry lots of varieties of Baxters' soup, but no cullen skink. I guess I'll have to go back to Scotland. (Actually we do have a recipe, so maybe we'll try that approach.) Mike

      PS. We now buy Baxters soups regularly. They are a great change from the usual North American soups.

      PPS. You should change the question on your 'submission' web page from "Do you want do make changes?" to "Do you want to make changes?".

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      12.03.2005 18:23
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      Up until a couple of months ago I had never tried Cullen Skink soup before. The name itself was enough to put off let alone the chief ingredients. The mere thought of eating a soup containing smoked haddock wasn’t in the least bit appealing to me so had never felt the urge to let any pass my lips. However, that all changed over the weeks leading up to Christmas last year. Having won a rather handsome hamper laden with goodies, I couldn’t wait to delve in to see the delights so when I got home I rifled through the contents and was really pleased with my win. However once I reached the bottom I found a tin of Baxter’s Cullen Skink and it was enough to turn my stomach.

      Cullen Skink for those as ignorant as me comes from the Gaelic language. Skink is a term used for shin of beef and it’s said that this was the original chief ingredient of this soup before Smoked Haddock took over later on. Cullen is a small fishing port located on the north coast of Scotland where the recipe originated, it’s obvious then why fish plays a major role in this soup today.

      The firm Baxter’s that make the soup started out over a century ago by the Baxter family. They have become one of the most successful companies in Scotland employing a large workforce in Morayshire, providing a healthy income for many families around that area. Baxter’s still maintain that they are still a family-run business and that this is their driving force behind their successful range of products.

      Baxter’s soups are widely available and they can be found amongst the luxury range of soups and at around £2 for a 425g tin of soup it’s no wonder it’s classed as a speciality soup – the price is a bit off-putting and may deter you from buying too often, but for a treat now and then this can be overlooked.

      The packaging on the tin is quite traditional; it is primarily black with a picture of a mouth-watering bowl of soup steaming on the front. The Baxter’s Logo stands out boldly so it would be hard to miss as you scan the shelves.

      One lunchtime I decided that some soup was called for – it was freezing outside and a tin of soup would be quick and easy. On looking through the cupboards it soon became apparent that my husband had cleared out all the tins and all that was there was this solitary tin of Cullen Skink. My husband had made up his mind that he quite fancied this soup, so he proceeded to butter some crusty bread to accompany it, so that was that. Decision made for me, it was a case of like it or lump it.

      On opening the tin I was surprised at the aroma that met my nostrils. There was no obvious smell of fish, which was pleasing. The smell was more briny, very much similar to chicken soup. The soup itself was incredibly thick and creamy with a lumpy consistency. There were healthy sized chunks of potato and large flakes of fish mingled throughout the thick liquid. The colour reminds me very much of mushroom soup, a kind of creamy, brown hue. Admittedly, the soup looked rather appetising, but still not convinced I would wait to see what it tasted like.

      Heating the soup is child’s play, it can be done in the traditional way of warming over a stove in a saucepan, or if you’re in a hurry pop it in the microwave for 2-3 minutes and serve. As the soup cooked, the smell became more appetising and my mouth began to water in anticipation, which was a surprise for me as I had already made my mind up that this soup wasn’t for me.

      Taking my first mouthful was quite pleasing, the smoke fish flavour was very subtle and nothing like the taste I was expecting of kippers. The other ingredients played down the taste of fish and gave the soup a lovely delicate flavour. The potatoes and onions can be tasted too, as can the herbs and seasoning, but they don’t take over. All in all a lovely balance of flavours that provide a satisfying lunchtime meal.

      Although this soup is incredibly creamy, the calories and fat content don’t reflect this. A 425g tin is plenty to feed two people and each serving has only 178 calories and the fat content is less than 4% so no need to worry about your waistband expanding after eating this particular soup.

      Since I tried this soup I’m now hooked (no pun intended). While initial thoughts were how expensive it was, the quality is very high and it really does make a substantial meal, which tastes like it could cost a lot more? This soup could also be used as a base for other recipes containing fish. I don’t eat enough fish it has to be said, but since discovering this soup, I have been a bit more experimental. This soup is particularly delicious when poured over plain white fish before cooking in the oven. Serve with mashed potatoe and vegetables of your choice and you have a cheap, tasty meal in no time at all.

      Visit www.baxters.co.uk to check out more of their product range.

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        15.11.2003 01:04
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        When Rick Stein published his recipe for Cullen Skink in "Fruits of the Sea" he considered renaming it "Smoked Finnan Haddock Soup with Potatoes, Onion and Parsley" on the grounds that "Cullen Skink sounds like something you wouldn't want to give to your pet Jack Russell." I'm glad he decided not to tamper with tradition though, because his recipe for the soup is the best that I've found. Where does the name come from then? Well, "skink" comes from the Gaelic and means "essence". Originally it referred to a soup made from shin of beef, but in this case the soup is made with smoked haddock. Cullen is, of course, the port on the north coast of Scotland. If you're going to make the soup you'll need onions, cloves, milk, a bay leaf, some smoked haddock, butter, potatoes, cream and parsley. Oh, you'll want to have at least half an hour to spare too. Now, I don't want to put you off doing this if you really want to, but there is an easier way. Go and buy a can of Baxter's Cullen Skink Soup. It's part of their range of Luxury Soups (they're the ones with the predominantly black label) and at £1.99 for a can of soup it certainly has a luxury price. It might seem a lot of money for a can of soup but I think it's worth every penny. When I buy food I think about the producer before I consider the product. I like Baxters. Even after 135 years in business they're still a family-run firm. They're one of the major employers in the Morayshire area of Scotland as well as indirectly providing a living for many more people whose produce they buy. Even then, they still think of the family business depending on the people and produce of the area, rather than the other way round. Baxters is the sort of producer I like. Open the can and the smell that meets you is not so much of fish as of the sea. You should always beware of fish that sm
        ells fishy - it's not good news! It's a creamy soup, but it isn't smooth. You'll see some quite substantial flakes of smoked haddock in there as well as pieces of potato. Traditionally it's the potato which thickens this soup. The colour is predominantly a creamy-beige because the fish used is the more expensive undyed smoked haddock. There's none of that hideous yellow fish in this can! Prepare the soup in a pan by gently heating to below boiling point. Don't overcook it as this gives smoked fish a harsh after-taste. You can heat the soup in a microwave but I find this harder to control so I stick to the pan method. Serve immediately. If I'm serving this as a light lunch dish I usually provide a basket of crusty bread, but as a starter before a substantial main course I find that some unbuttered, thinly-sliced toast is best. The taste is more delicate than you might expect. The haddock tastes of fish rather than the smokehouse. Some 15% of the soup is fish which makes it a nutritious meal. The flavours of the potatoes and onion come through, but only as supporting cast. There's a fine balance of flavours and although spices and seasoning have been added it isn't heavy-handed. It's a very satisfying soup with no cloying after-taste to spoil whatever else you might be eating. A half-can serving of Cullen Skink contains 184 calories. Even if you're watching your weight you could still have some bread and enjoy a substantial lunch. The fat content is less than 4%. I'm afraid that if you have an allergy to nuts you will have to avoid this soup because of the methods of production. Most cans have a long sell-by date. The one I bought from Sainsbury's this week will need to be used before November 2005, although I don't see that as being a problem. As I use one can I replace it with another. It's not only a good lunch or starter, it's also been
        the base for a rather hurried fish pie on more than one occasion. You'll need a fillet of fish for each person. I often use salmon, but haddock, cod or similar will do fine. You can use a mixture and it doesn't matter if some of the fish is smoked and some unsmoked. Skin the fish, cut into bite-sized chunks and place in the bottom of a pie dish. Pour a can of Cullen Skink soup over the fish and mix. Cover with mashed potato or puff pastry and bake in a hot oven for 30 minutes. I'm sure that Baxters won't mind if you don't explain where the delicious sauce came from!

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