AS the 250th anniversary of the birth of Scotland's greatest literary export, this year's Burns Night is set to be a big one, with a celebratory evening of kilts, malt whisky, hearty Scottish food and the addressing of the haggis.
Burns purists will tuck into cock-a-leekie soup, haggis, neeps and tatties, and cranachan, followed by a night of poetry and music. But you don't need to go the whole traditional tartan hog to honour the life of the Bard, as modern twists on haggis are available – and easy to do at home.
First, and most important, is a good quality haggis. The secret of a great haggis is in the spices. For an authentic taste, it should also be moist and flavoursome, containing top-quality oatmeal plus extra lard to inject moisture and added taste. There should be enough suet so it's moist without being too greasy and enough oatmeal to give texture without being too dry. Lastly, ensure the haggis contains enough pepper and nutmeg for that all-important kick. Thankfully, we have some great butchers in the Capital who sell some of the best haggis available. Or you can opt for the world-famous Macsween haggis, which is available in most supermarkets.
A modern take on the traditional is the popular Flying Scotsman dish– breast of chicken stuffed with haggis. Wrap the chicken in bacon and it becomes Balmoral Chicken. Haggis bhaji is another popular choice, as are haggis pakora and samosa. These quirky dishes work well as starters or appetisers.
But my personal favourite is haggis lasagne. Ditch the cheese sauce and rich beef in favour of spicy moist haggis and a creamy whisky sauce. This dish always has the wow factor and is a hugely popular option for guests at Hadrian's – as well as at home. Now all that's left to do is open the malt and get the party started.
Peter Fleming is head chef of Hadrian's Brasserie at The Balmoral, www.thebalmoral hotel.com, 0131-556 2414
Haggis Samosas (makes 12 samosas)
12 wonton skins
1 large haggis ball
1 jar of mayonnaise
Arran mustard (to taste)
Whisky (to taste)
Make small balls of haggis. Roll out wonton skin and ensure skins are kept moist and cold throughout the process. Brush egg yolk around the edge of each wonton and place a haggis ball in the centre, wrapping up the skin to create a ball. Deep fry for 3-4 minutes.
For the dip, mix some Arran mustard and a bit of whisky into the mayonnaise to create a dip for the samosas. Add mustard and whisky quantities to taste, but do so slowly.
Haggis lasagne topped with crispy potato and served with an onion whisky cream (serves four)
3 sheets of pasta
1 small Haggis
Quarter turnip, thinly sliced
1 large potato
1 white onion
250 ml double cream
Small glass of white wine
Whisky (to taste)
Leek, white part only
Knob of butter
Oil for frying
Place haggis in pan of hot water. Simmer for approximately 45 minutes depending on size. Blanche pasta sheets in hot water. Peel and cut turnip into round thin slices. Pan-fry until tender. Peel and cut potato into matchstick sizes, cut and finely dice onion, and peel and dice white of leek.
Soften leeks in pan with a little butter and half a glass of white wine, then leave to the side. Add butter and chopped onion to a heated pan, and soften until brown. Add the reminder of white wine and reduce until almost evaporated. Add double cream and reduce by half. Season.
Place a little oil on a tray and pre-heat in an oven at 180 degrees. Once hot place potato slices in the tray and cook until crispy brown, turning frequently in oven to ensure even coverage of oil. Lightly season.
Place cooked leek in base of earthenware dish. Place a sheet of turnip slice on top. Place pasta sheets on top. Layer with haggis, top with onion sauce. Then, add a shot of whisky over the onion sauce. Cook in preheated oven at 120 degrees, for 3-4 minutes. When ready, place crispy potato on top and serve.