Get ready to embrace your inner Scot because 25 January marks Burns Night, the annual celebration commemorating the birth of Scottish poet Robert Burns.
Whether you were born and bread in Scotland, or you’re choosing to claim you’re one eighth Scottish for the day, Burns Night is a great excuse for expanding your culinary repertoire.
No Burns Night party would be complete without a traditional Burns Supper, so we spoke to top chefs to gather the recipes and tips you need.
Haggis is Scotland’s national dish and is traditionally a combination of meat (particulalry heart, liver, and lungs) with oatmeal, onions and seasoning.
If you’re short on time, you can buy haggis that’s already made. Chef Mark Hix, who has given the menu at HIX restaurants a Scottish twist in time for Burns Night, recommends opting for quality, not quantity.
“The most important thing is buying a good, not mass produced one, we use Blackface haggis which is made in Dumfriesshire on a small scale,” he tells HuffPost UK.
“The vegetarian Macsween haggis is delicious,” Cook tells HuffPost UK.
“It combines a mixture of healthy fresh vegetables, pulses, oatmeal, seeds and spices, which not only vegetarians and vegans enjoy but carnivores as well.”
Alternatively if you’re feeling adventurous, make your own haggis with the below recipe by Paul Wedgwood, owner of Wedgwood the Restaurant, Edinburgh.
He recommends trying to ensure the windpipe of your sheep is still attached to the lungs.
For the recipe you will need:
Heart, liver, lungs, kidneys and tongue of one sheep
500g minced lamb
2 large onions very fine dice
250g medium ground oatmeal
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
:: Ask your butcher for one sheep’s stomach or ox secum. Clean and scald thoroughly, turn inside out and soak overnight in cold salted water. (If not available use sausage casings or pork caul/crepinette).
:: Wash the offal well in cold water.
:: In a pan of salted boiling water add heart, liver, tongue and lungs. Leave the windpipe trailing over the side of the pan. This should allow any impurities to be released.
:: Cook for two hours. Remove from pan. Do not discard the stock.
:: Carefully remove the windpipe and mince all offal and mix with all dry ingredients. Add whisky.
:: Use the reserved stock to moisten the mixture to desired consistency and pack into oven bags and bake in oven 180’c for 90 minutes. Remember to prick the oven bag. Put small amount of stock in tray with bag.
:: When cooked open bag very carefully- check seasoning and serve topped with a layer of mashed neeps and followed by a layer of creamed potato
To keep your meal fresh, Neil Forbes at Cafe St Honoré, Edinburgh, recommends pairing haggis with a warm leek-based salad, topped with a poached egg.
Meanwhile The Frog’s Adam Handling, who hails from Scotland, says there’s no need to throw leftover haggis away at the end of supper.
“You can mix it with sausage meat, wrap it round a boiled egg, and cover it in breadcrumbs to make a Haggis Scotch Egg,” he tells HuffPost UK.
“For a twist on a burger, mix it with corned beef and press/shape it into a burger patty – the corned beef acts as a binding agent.”
Neeps and Tatties
Mashed ‘neeps and tatties’ is a classic side dish to go with haggis. For those uninitiated, “tatties” stands for potatoes while “neeps” is traditionally made from swede, turnip or a mixture of the two.
If you’ve got vegetarian guests coming for Burns Supper, Handling says swede and turnip can also be transformed into a haggis alternative.
“Using a large melon baller, I make large balls of suede, and a smaller melon baller to make small English turnip balls which are cooked slowly in olive oil with garlic,” he says.
“I boil whole nave turnips, and then pan fry all the vegetables with some salt, sugar, Togarashi, and honey. It’s sweet, salty, sour, spicy, and delicious.
“To serve, deep fry the turnip leaves and use them to make a salad.”
For a sweet treat at the end of your meal, you can’t go wrong with Cranachan.
The traditional Scottish dessert usually consists of oats, cream, whisky and raspberries and is served in a sundae glass.
Handling gives first-time Cranachan-makers this top tip: “Don’t whip your cream too much and always toast your oats, but make sure they’re cold before putting on the cream.”
While your average Cranachan is easy to make, Wedgwood has created the deconstructed version below for those who wish to add a fancy flair to proceedings.
The Cranachan with brambles recipe serves six people.
To make the bramble cream you will need:
300ml double cream
200g white chocolate
100g brambles (frozen are fine!)
:: Place the cream in a pan and bring to the boil, place the chocolate in a bowl and pour the cream over, whisk until combined.
:: Cool in the fridge for a minimum of two hours (ideally overnight). Whip the mixture to soft peaks, then add brambles and whip to firm peaks.
To make the oat crumble you will need:
53g demerara sugar
40g plain flour
2g bicarbonate of soda
:: Cream the butter and sugar, add the dry ingredients and mix.
:: Roll out like a sheet of biscuit to about 1cm thick. Bake at 180c, checking after 15mins, take out when it is a nice golden brown, cool then break into a crumble.
For the anglaise you will need:
250ml double cream
150g egg yolk
1 vanilla pod or tsp of essence
:: Bring milk and cream to the boil, whisk egg and sugar together.
:: Take the milk and cream mixture off the heat and carefully whisk into the egg and sugar mix, add the vanilla.
:: Whisk slowly on a gentle heat until it thickly coats the back of
a spoon, cool.
To make the whisky honey
:: Add the honey to a small pan and bring to the boil for one minute then deglaze with the whisky. Blend into the anglais when cool (but set a bit of the syrup aside to drizzle over the finished dessert)
:: Churn in ice cream machine.
:: Pipe or spoon the Bramble cream into glasses or bowls, sprinkle the crumb mix over and drizzle with whisky honey.
:: Serve with whisky honey ice cream and garnish with brambles and mint leaves.
Wash all that food down with whisky for a traditional end to your night.
To impress your guests, Alasdair Day, co-founder of independent Scotch whisky company, R&B Distillers, tells HuffPost UK there are three standout options.
“My whisky suggestions for Burns Night would be Girvan Patent Still single grain which is from Ayrshire, the home of Burns; Ardbeg 10-year-old, which is peaty and smokey, perfect with peppery haggis; or our own Tweeddale The Evolution 28-year-old, to toast ‘the immortal memory’,” he says.
Whisky can be drank with ice or a splash of water, or Alasdair recommends using it as the basis for the ‘Godfather’ cocktail.
“Simply stir 25 ml amaretto with 50 ml Raasay While We Wait Scotch Whisky and serve on the rocks in an Old Fashioned glass,” he says.