It is hard to believe that a full 12 months have passed since the launch of The Homecoming last year on 25 January, marking the 250th anniversary of the birth of the Bard. However, this year's celebrations will be as much an occasion as ever, up and down the country.
Traditionally, haggis and clootie dumpling are on the menu of Burns' suppers, and this should remain. The best haggis is that made by the inestimable Macsween family in Edinburgh; the very name Macsween is synonymous with top quality haggis – I love it that there are so many family businesses in the food and hospitality scene in Scotland.
I propose stuffing chicken with haggis, remembering the increasing numbers of organically farmed chickens being raised throughout Scotland. To name just two brands, Grampian chickens and Geddes, near Nairn, are very good.
To accompany the haggis-stuffed roast chicken, I suggest small cakes made from bashed turnip and tatties, containing fried, diced onions, and each cake pressed into sesame seeds before being fried.
For pud, instead of clootie dumpling, try a whisky, lemon and ginger syllabub accompanied by flapjack biscuits, using the wonderful oatmeal from Alford. These can be made a couple of days before the celebrations, but they take only very little time, if you are celebrating this evening.Roast chicken with haggis stuffing
Any leftovers here are delicious eaten cold, by the way.
SERVES 6 TO 8
2lb/900g haggis, released from its casings
2 chickens, each weighing about 3lb/1.35kg
3oz/85g softened butter, salt, pepper
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
For the gravy sauce:
The juices from the roasting tin (a wonderful combination of the flavours, from the haggis and the chicken, with a hint of lemon)
1 onion, skinned, halved and diced finely
1 rounded tablespoon flour
1 pint/570ml stock (or a good stock substitute made up with boiling water)
1 tablespoon Worcester sauce – there is no need for further seasoning, because the haggis is itself well seasoned, and the Worcester sauce contributes further saltiness
Slit down the haggis and scoop the contents into a bowl. Line a roasting tin with a sheet of baking parchment, and put the chickens on this, having removed giblets. Divide the haggis between each bird, stuffing each very well.
Mix together the softened butter, salt, pepper and grated lemon rind. Divide this between each chicken, rubbing it over the skin. Roast in a hot oven, 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6, for one hour, then lower the heat to moderate, 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4, and continue to roast for a further 20-30 minutes. Roast the chickens well in advance of eating and, when their cooking time is up, lift them onto a warmed dish, cover them with foil and leave to stand, to settle their juices, in a very low temperature oven or, if it is easier, on the top of your cooker, with no heat – the foil holds in the heat very well.
To make the gravy sauce, tip the pan juices into a non-stick saucepan and heat. Fry the finely diced onion in the juices for about five minutes before stirring in the flour. Cook for a further couple of minutes, then stir in the stock and Worcester sauce, stirring until the gravy sauce reaches boiling point. Take the pan off the heat, and either cover it with its lid or pour the sauce into a Thermos jug, to keep it hot and allow you to wash up the pan and wooden spoon.
Turnip and sesame cakes
2lb/900g peeled turnip and
1lb/450g peeled potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, skinned and finely diced
1 teaspoon salt
about 25 grinds of black pepper
1 egg, beaten on a plate
3oz/85g sesame seeds mixed with teaspoon salt
Boil or steam the peeled chunks of turnip and potato until both are tender when stuck with a fork.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and fry the diced onions over a moderate heat, for about six to eight minutes, until they are completely soft. Leave to cool.
Drain the cooked turnip and tatties, and steam dry. Then mash them very, very well, and when mashed, with a wooden spoon beat them to a smoothness, beating in the cooled fried diced onions. Beat in the salt and pepper, then leave the mixture to cool.
When cold, form the mixture into even-sized cakes. Dip each in beaten egg then, on either side, in the salted sesame seeds, putting the coated cakes on a sheet of baking parchment.
To cook, heat a thin layer of olive oil or sunflower oil if you prefer, in a wide saut pan. When hot, put the cakes in, allowing enough space for you to turn them over to cook on their other sides. Once in the pan, allow them to fry without moving them at all for about 1 minutes, then carefully turn over each and fry for the same time on the other side. The sesame seeds might pop as they fry. As the cakes are fried, lift them onto a warm dish, lined with a double thickness of kitchen paper. Keep the cakes warm until you are ready to serve.
Whisky, lemon and ginger syllabub with flapjack biscuits
For the flapjack biscuits:
2 tablespoons golden syrup
4oz/110g soft brown sugar
8oz/225g soft porridge oats – the best are from Alford
teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
For the syllabub:
pint/425ml double cream
4 tablespoons whisky
4 tablespoons syrup from the preserved ginger jar
finely grated rind of 1 lemon and its juice
6 pieces of stem ginger, finely diced
Start by making the biscuits Melt together the butter and the golden syrup. Measure the soft brown sugar and oatmeal into a bowl, add the bicarbonate of soda and mix in the melted butter and golden syrup. Mix well. Put teaspoons of the mixture, well spaced, on a non-stick baking tray – if not non-stick, line with baking parchment – and bake in a moderate oven, 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 12-15 minutes, until they are golden brown. They will spread as they cook. Cool them on the baking tray for five minutes before carefully lifting them off and onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely. When cold, store them in an airtight container.
For the syllabub Whip the double cream with the whisky and ginger syrup until it is very thick but not stiff. Fold in the lemon rind and juice, and the diced stem ginger. Divide this between six small glasses and, if you like, put a twist of lemon peel on each. Serve with the flapjack biscuits.
This article was first published in The Scotsman on 23 January, 2010