I get strange looks when I mention this dish, I’m not entirely sure why because it is just a variation on the Scottish classic Cullen Skink. I threw this together last night after noticing a few packs of kippers in the freezer that were somewhat past their best-before date – 2 years past it in fact…
Before you ask the obvious question, nobody died. Kippers are smoked herrings, and smoking a fish is of course a method of preservation. It obviously works.
I urge you to give this a go: the combination of the creamy broth, the smoky aroma of the fish and the mild onion tang of the leeks is delightful. It’s quick to make and only cost me 55 pence – the cost of a packet of flat-leaf parsley – everything else I needed to make this was already in the house.
RECIPE – Serves 2 generously
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 large or 2 small leeks, trimmed, washed and finely sliced
250g floury potatoes (Maris Piper, Roosters etc) peeled and diced into 1cm cubes
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
4 kipper fillets
2 tsp cornflour
850ml whole milk
2 bay leaves
a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
a few chive stalks, chopped
the zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon
freshly ground black and white pepper
In a large saucepan, heat the oil then sweat the leeks over a medium-low heat, under a lid, until softened. This will take around 5 minutes.
Add the diced potatoes and garlic and cook for a further 3 or 4 minutes, stirring often.
Put the cornflour into a small bowl and add a little of the milk, stir thoroughly to make a thin paste. Turn the heat up and add the remainder of the milk to the leeks and potatoes, with the bay leaves. Pour the cornflour paste into the pan and stir thoroughly.
Bring the milk to a gentle simmer, stirring frequently, then cook gently for around ten minutes until the potatoes are just tender. The broth should be thick and creamy, coating the back of a spoon.
Meanwhile, take the skin off the kippers and chop the fillets into 2cm chunks.
When the potatoes are ready, add the fish to the broth, bring back to a simmer, then remove from the heat, cover and set aside for ten minutes. The fish will gently poach with no danger of it overcooking.
When ready to serve, add the chopped herbs and lemon juice. Stir thoroughly and check the seasoning carefully – you are unlikely to need much salt. Add a few good grindings of black pepper, and a little fresh ground white pepper as well (if you have it).
Serve with a little crusty bread, that’s all it needs.