Artist’s Palate: Douglas Gordon’s cullen skink

Plate of food sat in mirrored glass reflecting a TV
’Navy Fringe’ bowl, price on request, by Jasper Conran, for Wedgwood. ’Bettina’ tablespoon, £9.50, by Future Systems, for Alessi. ’Wexford’ plaid fabric, £120 per sq m; ’Ayers’ place-card holders, £175 for set of four, both by Ralph Lauren Home. Mirrored glass, £46 per sq m, by Ward Glass
(Image credit: Beate Sonnenberg)

Turner Prize-winning multi-media artist Douglas Gordon references the mirror, memory and autobiography in much of his work. He also used the Goya portraits in Madrid's Prado as his storyboard when preparing his real-time portrait of Zinedine Zidane, but that’s another, rather marvellous, story. This recipe is inspired by his father eating Scotland’s famous smoked haddock soup in the Glasgow institution that is Café Gandolfi. He stipulates that the fish is to come from Aberdeen; the potatoes from Ayrshire; and the sharp knife used to barely stir them should be handed down from your granny. Try to get hold of some Finnan haddie, the lightly cold-smoked haddock that goes best with the onions, leek, garlic and milk to make this dish far superior to a bisque. He also wants us to add that Café Gandolfi and his father are both still going strong. Gordon's cullen skink recipe is a piece of poetry dedicated to 'the devil's breakfast'.

Big fish.
One is enough,
Aberdeen boneless.
Smoked, of course.
Haddock, that is.
Pan fried, just right; a capful olive oil and a knuckle of butter.
Meanwhile, new potatoes, preferably Ayrshires, halved, then quartered, should simmer, parboil... not too much water but add a wee cup of olive oil to the pot.
Not too much water,
but don’t throw away the water.
Never throw away the water.
Skim off the scum.
When tatties are done (they still
have some bite in the middle,
al dente, my friends, al dente…)
Reduce water to half volume.
Don’t worry if the potatoes start to catch on the pan; it’s delicious.
Finally, friends, introduce the fish with the butter and fat..
Some garlic?
Crushed or sliced, no matter.
A little onion, or two.
Half a leek: the best part of.
So, where was I?
Give all into the pot - potatoes,
fish and the rest...
Do NOT blend, do NOT mash.
But stir the potage together with a sharp knife, preferably handed down from yer granny.
When the soup has become ‘soup’, fish out the skin and bones, pardon the puns and...
Add milk to give the necessary volume.
Add some wee parsley sprigs -
and if you feel adventurous, some coriander or lovage.
No salt required.
Pepper as much as you want but
hide it from your mum.
It’s the devil’s breakfast...


Photography: Beate Sonnenberg. Food stylist: Nico Ghirlando