Friday, January 25 is, of course, Burn’s Night when the Scottish poet Robert Burns is remembered and his name toasted at events across the world.
Burns was born fortuitously on the 25th of January 1759. Scottish or not his arrival in the world is an excuse to liven up a potentially dreigh January day.
The first Burn’s supper was held at the family cottage, in the village of Alloway near Ayr, by Burns’s friends, on 21 July 1801, which was the fifth anniversary of his death. It has been a regular occurrence ever since across the globe.
At the centre of any Burn’s night supper is the Haggis. You could make your own Haggis if you want by boiling lamb’s pluck (heart, lungs and liver), chopping it and mixing it with oats, suet and spices. Press this mixture into an ox stomach lining, tie and simmer for a couple of hours.
Don’t fancy this? There are many butchers in Northern Ireland who will do all the hard work for you. Tom’s butchers in Portstewart make them every year using a traditional recipe and they’re as good as anything you’d get in Scotland!
Haggis was in no way a luxury item – it was borne out of the necessity to use the readily available cheaper cuts and offal.
Traditionally, the haggis is piped into the room and the host recites the “Address to the Haggis” poem. Everyone toasts the Haggis with a dram of whiskey and it is then carved up and served with neeps and tatties. Turnips and potatoes are mashed with butter, nutmeg, pepper and cream. As a life long lover of turnip I think you should eat this all year round and not just on the 25th January.
In Scotland, the neeps and tatties are kept separate but I’ve included my version, where they’re mixed, to go alongside some Haggis sausage rolls. This could be misconstrued as an abomination to our Scottish cousins, but mixing the haggis with sausage meat and baking them in pastry does calm down the strong flavour of offal. Add a good dash of whiskey gravy and you’ve the perfect Burn’s night main that will appeal across the board.
Scotch broth has been part of our diet here for generations – shin of beef cooked with barley and vegetables. It’s hearty, cheap to produce and makes a great starter course for a Burn’s night supper or for a nutritious meal in the cold weather.
To finish off the festivities a Raspberry Cranachan is the perfect end. Raspberries, honey, oats, cream and whiskey whipped into a light confection.