Put the potatoes in the oven to bake. This will probably take 1½ hours at Gas 6.
Slice off one of the smokie fillets to grill as a garnish later
Chop the fennel root, leek if you like and some shallots and place in a pan with the bay leaves and smokies,
cover with water and a splash of white wine and set to gently poach for 4-5 minutes until the smokie is soft.
Take out the fish, carefully separate the flakes from the skin and bones and set aside.
The bones are quite small so this needs to be done rather carefully (Rachel!) or you'll end up with mouthfuls of them.
Return leftover parts of fish to the stock to continue simmering.
Meanwhile strip the feathery fronds from the dill and set aside to soak in a little white wine vinegar.
Finely chop the rest of the shallots.
You can throw the dill stalks and shallot offcuts into the stock as you work.
Use a hand blender to whizz up the vinegared dill with some walnut oil to make a thick green sauce. Season well.
Strain the stock, then reduce it if desired (it's pretty tasty stuff).
Meanwhile simmer the shallots gently
in enough milk to cover until they begin to soften.
Mash the potatoes with a wad of butter when they're cooked.
Stir the potatoes into the soup and distribute, finally add the flaked fish.
Add more milk as necessary.
Finally add the hot reduced stock, but absolutely do not boil
after this point or the milk will curdle.
Stir in a little cream, and season to taste (it's probably already quite salty enough from the fish).
Grill the retained fillet until hot and glistening and carefully separate off the fish flakes.
Ladle the soup into bowls and decorate with pools of cream, dill oil and grilled fish flakes to make beautiful patterns.
Instead of Arbroath Smokies you can go with more traditional Finnan haddies (lightly smoked haddock)
- about 1lb or 1 large haddock.
You need to watch you don't overboil the haddie since it's already softer than the smokies,
but it's a lot less fiddly since there's much less skin and bones in the Finnan haddie.
I didn't think it tasted as good though, even though I still added an extra smokie just for the stock.