ON SATURDAY many people will be tucking into a plate of haggis in celebration of Burns Night to mark the life and poetry of Robert Burns. A Burns Supper unquestionably always includes haggis – even if it’s of a vegetarian variety – turnips and potatoes.
The truly Scottish haggis, neeps and tatties. Before we opened our gastro pub The Scran & Scallie, we visited the local St Columba’s Hospice shop in Stockbridge, where we discovered an incredible Burns Day menu from 1913, from Patrick Thomson’s – known locally as PT’s – a department store on North Bridge which closed in the 1970s. It featured some fantastic traditional Scottish dishes from 100 years ago. We were so delighted, we used the menu to inspire us in some of the traditional Scottish dishes we serve.
For some people, Burns Night may be one of the few occasions they tuck into warming, delicious haggis. This year, however, the Scottish Federation of Meat Traders Association has declared 2014 the year of the haggis and is encouraging people to enjoy it throughout the year. Whether you’re dining in or out, haggis is a great dish and you can also try it in stovies, as a little starter or appetiser in the form of haggis bonbons, or try a twist on the Scotch egg with haggis – and, if you’re brave, even have it for breakfast.
In our family, we’ve always enjoyed haggis and it’s a dish that has fond memories for me. I used to spend a lot of time at my nana’s house – she was a great cook and the dish was always something that the entire family would gather round the dinner table to enjoy.
No Burns Supper would be complete without a wee dram of whisky – the great “water of life”. Traditionally, a Scotch whisky toast will be proposed to the haggis before everyone sits down for their meal. I also like to add a little whisky to dessert on Burns Night, whether it’s Whisky Babas, Tipsy Laird – a whisky trifle – or traditional Cranachan. This year, though, I’m planning to try something a bit different. I’m lucky to have met many great chefs and cooks during my career, and I love to find out what inspires their cooking. This recipe has been kindly shared with me by the great James Martin from Saturday Kitchen. It’s a brilliant take on a traditional bread and butter pudding with the addition of white chocolate and, of course, whisky. Delicious, comforting and definitely a little indulgent – perfect for a cosy Burns Night in. Slàinte!
Haggis, Neeps & Tatties
2 free-range egg yolks
100g plain flour
1 free-range egg, lightly beaten, for coating
vegetable oil for deep-frying
4 quail eggs
1 litre water
150g caster sugar
1 bay leaf
3 thyme sprigs
6 black peppercorns
1–2 garlic cloves
1 tsp salt
150ml white wine vinegar
1 large potato
20ml clarified butter
First prepare the pickled neeps. Peel and thinly slice the turnip. Meanwhile, bring the rest of the ingredients to the boil in a saucepan. Remove from the heat, drop in the turnip slices and leave to infuse for 2–3 hours.
Meanwhile, cook the haggis.
Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Wrap the haggis in foil and lower into the pan. When the water comes back to a simmer, turn the heat right down and leave to cook slowly for 2–3 hours. Once cooked, remove the haggis from the pan, unwrap and slice open. Take it out of the bladder and put into a large bowl. Let it cool slightly, then mix in the egg yolks. Turn the haggis out on to a sheet of clingfilm and shape into a roll, about 5cm in diameter. Wrap in the clingfilm and refrigerate to firm up.
When ready, remove the pickled neeps from the liquid and cut into thin strips. Set aside.
Once chilled, unwrap the haggis and cut into 2.5cm slices. Put the flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs into three containers. Dip the haggis slices first in the flour to coat, then into the beaten egg, and finally into the breadcrumbs to coat all over – set aside.
For the tatties, peel the potato and cut into wafer-thin strips. Mix with a little clarified butter and salt. Heat a non-stick frying pan, add a quarter of the potato and shape gently into a 5cm circle. Fry gently until crispy, then carefully remove and keep warm while you cook the rest of the potato in the same way to make four crispy potato cakes.
To fry the haggis cakes, heat the oil in a deep-fryer or other suitable deep, heavy pan to 180C/Gas 4. Lower the haggis cakes into the hot oil and fry for 3–4 minutes until golden. Meanwhile, pile the neep strips onto warm plates. Remove the haggis from the pan, drain on kitchen paper and salt lightly.
Add a little more oil to the frying pan and fry the quail eggs for a minute, or until the whites have set but the yolks are soft.
Place the haggis cakes alongside the neeps and top with the quail eggs. Place the crispy potato on the side and serve at once.
James Martin’s white chocolate, whisky and croissant butter pudding
Serves four to six
500ml/17fl oz milk
500ml/17fl oz double cream
1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
3 free-range eggs, 5 egg yolks
200g/7oz caster sugar
4 large ready-made croissants, sliced
25g/1oz butter, melted
175g/6oz white chocolate, grated
3 tbsp whisky
55g/2oz apricot jam
icing sugar, to dust
sprig of fresh mint, to garnish
Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6. Pour the milk and cream into a pan, add the vanilla pod and bring slowly to the boil. Crack the eggs into a large mixing bowl with the egg yolks and sugar and beat together until pale and fluffy. Lay the croissant slices over the base of an ovenproof dish, slightly overlapping the pieces. Sprinkle with the sultanas and pour over the melted butter.
When the cream mixture has reached boiling point, take it off the heat and allow to cool slightly. Add the egg mixture and grated chocolate to the cream and stir well. Set aside for a few minutes to allow the chocolate to melt, stirring occasionally.
Add the whisky to the cream mixture, then strain the cream through a sieve over the croissants. Remove the vanilla pod.
Cover the dish with foil and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until almost set. Remove from the oven, coat the top with the jam and dust with icing sugar. Heat with a mini-blowtorch to caramelise the top, or place under a hot grill.
To serve, allow the pudding to reach room temperature and serve with a scoop of ice-cream and a sprig of mint to garnish.