There’s no doubt that Scottish food and drink very much come to the fore on January the 25th, the anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, Scotland’s national bard.
Burns Night celebrations can take the form of a small gathering of friends or family, right the way through to complex and elaborate ceremonies as part of a large get together. Regardless of the size or formalities observed though, the star of the meal is always the haggis, Scotland’s national dish, served with neeps and tatties.
The other key ingredient to a modern Burns night supper is humour. It’s definitely a light hearted affair, and no one’s going to be upset if you settle just for the food and a couple of wee drams alongside.
If you’re keen to really get into the spirit, then you should ensure that you recite Burn’s ‘Address To a Haggis’ before cutting the first slice.
A full running order can be found on the BBC, including a typical full menu and entertainments, although few will go to those sort of lengths this year at home alone.
Haggis, Neeps and Tatties
- 907 g Traditional Haggis
- 5 large baking potatoes approx 1kg in weight
- olive oil to drizzle
- 50 g butter
- 1 large swede
- 50 g butter
- 8 shallots loose skin removed
- 1 sprig thyme
- 2 cloves garlic loose skin removed
- 300 ml white wine
- 1 pot chicken stockpot
- 200 ml double cream
- 50 g butter cold and cubed
- 100 ml whisky
- salt and pepper to season
- 1 tsp gravy granules or cornflour optional
- Preheat oven to 180C, 160C fan, gas mark 4. Remove the outer packaging of the haggis, but don't remove the tight skin casing. Wrap the haggis in lightly greased foil, then place in an oven proof pan big enough to leave space all the way around. Pour in boiling water so that it comes about 2-3 cm up the sides. Cook the haggis in the oven for 1 hour 45 minutes.
- Clean the potatoes, score a line around the entire circumference, drizzle with oil, season well, then bake in the oven alongside the haggis for approx. 1 hour 20 minutes, until cooked through and tender. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then cut open and scoop out the flesh. Mash, or pass through a potato ricer, then mix well with 50g butter and season to taste again.
- Peel and dice the swede, then cook in salted water for about one hour, again until tender when skewered with a knife. Drain, then stand over a low heat for a few minutes to remove any remaining water. Again either mash or pass through a potato ricer, then mix with 50g butter and season to taste. Stand over a low heat to drive off any extra moisture, stirring often so as not to catch.
- Make a sauce base from the white wine, garlic, thyme, the stockpot, 500ml of water, the whisky and a little seasoning. Add the shallots, in their skins, and simmer for about 25 minutes until tender. Remove the shallots, set to one side to cool, then remove the skins. Strain the base liquid, bring back to the boil, then add the double cream and cubed butter. Boil until reduced by about half, and starting to thicken. Add the shallots back in. If you feel it needs a little extra help to thicken as a sauce, then stir in a teaspoon of gravy granules, or a little cornflour mixed in cold water.
- If you're going full Burn's night, then deliver to the table on a silver platter to the sound of bagpipes. The chef should then render Robbie Burn's 'Address to the Haggis', before cutting the haggis open along it's length. It's always a good idea to have pierced the skin in advance to save it from exploding open.Otherwise, remove the skin and clips from the haggis, and serve alongside the tatties and neeps, with a generous amount of the sauce and a couple of shallots.For extra effect, consider serving using metal rings, layering a third haggis, a third swede and a final third of mashed potatoes. An advantage to this method is you can prepare it in advance on a greased baking sheet, glaze the top with melted butter, and reheat in a high oven until warmed through and brown on top.