Thursday, November 25, 2010

My idea of a real winter warmer

This month was my first time taking part in the Irish Foodies Cookalong and the theme was 'winter warmers'. Hmm, I thought when presented with the challenge, what's my idea of a winter warmer?

I very rarely eat meat so the obvious option of stews, boeuf bourguinon and such were off my menu. I was stumped for a few days until I saw mention of Cullen Skink on the Daily Spud's blog (if you haven't checked her out, you should: A few years ago, I had a version of this dish in a hotel in Belfast. A fried potato cake that bursts with fresh chives, hearty leek and potato soup and poached smoked haddock topped with a poached egg; I'd loved it and I'd always meant to try to recreate it at home. So, on the evening of Friday the 5th of November, that's exactly what I did.

(Some of you may think that this sounds like a lot of work for a Friday evening and, in a way, it is. But if you do what I did and make more potato cakes and more leek and potato soup than you need, then you have the makings of several meals just waiting for you in your fridge.)

So, I started by making what's called a court bouillon, a flavoured cooking liquid that is used for poaching fish. You may think this is unnecessary but cooking time aside, it takes very little effort on your part and your fish will taste all the better for it. Whenever I make it, I usually make enough for a few batches and freeze what I don't use.

Court bouillon:
100ml dry white wine
1 bay leaf
2 fresh thyme stems
1 carrot, sliced thinly
1 onion, sliced
1 stick of celery
8 black peppercorns
1.5litres water

Place all of your ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil.
Simmer for 30 mins.
Cool and strain.
(It's not that hard, is it?)

While that was happening, I made a start on my potato cakes. I boiled 2 medium-sized potatoes per person in a saucepan of water.

Next up was the soup.

15g butter
1 onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
225g potatoes, cubed
2 medium-sized leeks, sliced
1.2 litres vegetable stock
Lots of flat leafed parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper

  • Melt the butter. Add the onion and garlic and stir until softened.
  • Add the potatoes and leeks. Stir for five mins or so.
  • Add the stock. Bring to the boil. Cover the pot and leave to simmer for 15 mins.
  • Add the parsley. Blend coarsely (I use a hand-held blender but a food processor will do too). Season.
While your soup is cooking, it's time to get your act in gear.
You need to mash your potatoes with chives, butter and salt and fry it in butter or oil. (Your choice but my preference would be for butter. It complements the flavour of the overall dish.)
You need to poach some smoked haddock in your court bouillon, which should be simmering in a wide pan. (I used a wok.) How long this takes depends on how thick your fillets of fish are but an average-sized fillet should take between 4 and 6 minutes.
Your last step is to poach an egg. And then all you need to do is assemble.

Potato cake:
Smoked haddock:


  1. I have to say that it look totally DELICIOUS on a cold morning!!

  2. You should try it, Sharon. It is really tasty and warming and the gooey egg yolk mixing with the poached fish and the soup makes it the ultimate comfort food!

  3. STOP STOP STOP!! This looks TOO delicious!