Burns Night. Time to drink to the Haggis!

January 20, 2014 by The Co-op Observer burns night

Wherever Scots are gathered towards the end of the month you can be sure there’ll be some form of supper to honour the national bard, Robert Burns.

Burns Night traditionally takes place on 25th January, the master’s birthday, but there’s nothing to stop the celebrations taking place on a nearby convenient night. While for most people it’s an informal affair, there is a full order of ceremony to a Burn’s Super that includes pipers to welcome the guests, and even to pipe in the haggis, as well as many toasts, poems, singing and speeches.

The supper itself as a traditional menu too, with haggis as its centrepiece.

The starter will often be a cock-a-leekie. This simple soup is mainly just what the name suggests, chicken and leeks, often with prunes too which give it a pleasant sweetness.

Then for the main event. Whether you pipe in your haggis on its journey from the kitchen to the table, or whether you simply give it a hearty cheer, the haggis is best accompanied by neeps and tatties and whisky sauce (that’s a splash of neat whisky to you and me). The most complicated bit here is determining what neeps are. It’s simplest to say that neeps are the mashed orange brassica, for whether you call that a turnip or a swede seems to depend where you come from. Technically it’s swede, but certainly growing up in Cornwall I learnt that the round orange vegetables were turnips, and in both Scotland and Ireland I have noticed that the definition of which is which is far from clear.

What’s more important though is the haggis. For the faint hearted it might be better not to know what’s in it, it’s probably best to think of it as minced lamb with a good dose of spices. I found it quite delicious, and even the vegetarian version was good, especially with liberal libations of Scotland’s famous amber spirit.

Follow this easy recipe for haggis, with swede and potato and whisky gravy.

Dessert is often a cloutie dumpling, a delicious fruit pudding cooked in a cloth called “cloutie”. Try it with cream, or custard, even jam, and a splash of whisky.

Wherever you are in the world, if you’re Scottish, or know a Scot, or just need an excuse for a great knees up, then read up on your Burns and celebrate the bard’s birthday on Friday 25th January 2013.

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