Praise the laird

Take the traditional ingredients for a Burns Supper and add poetic licence to give them a contemporary twist

ONE of my first jobs was in the kitchens of a large hotel in the Highlands. I started there in the middle of January 1986 – and it was a baptism of fire. The pastry chef failed to turn up on my first day (there were black mutterings from the rest of the staff about hangovers). So there I was, just 17 and away from home for the very first time, quaking in my boots when I heard the chef say, "Right, it's pastry for you, then, Jacqueline."

The hotel was due to host a Burns Supper – a banquet, more like – for 800 guests three days later, and so I was pitched right in at the deep end. It's sink or swim in these situations, and thankfully I managed to keep my head above water.

One of the dishes I had to prepare was Tipsy Laird, the recipe for which is given below. I very quickly had to master the art of getting this creamy, gooey pudding into a glass without smearing it all down the sides, and how to pipe chocolate into thousands of little thistle moulds to decorate each dessert. It felt like an awful lot of work for what to me looked suspiciously like a rather nice trifle.

That all feels like a very long time ago now. It was a steep learning curve, I can tell you (for which I was paid the princely sum of 60 a week – my team don't know how lucky they are!). But it did me no harm, and I still love cooking – although these days I do try to avoid having to produce quite so many puddings in one go.

Tipsy Laird is nevertheless a great way to round off a Burns Supper, if you're celebrating the Bard this Friday. Start with a warming bowl of thick cock-a-leekie stew, then try a modern twist on haggis and neeps – the recipe below is a bit lighter than the traditional version, but it does just as good a job of soaking up the whisky you'll be downing at the toasts.

Or drop into our Jordanhill restaurant, where we'll be combining a whisky extravaganza and cookery class with a Burns Night supper – phone or see the website for details.

Jacqueline O'Donnell is head chef at The Sisters (www.thesisters.co.uk), 34 Kelvingrove Street, Glasgow (0141 564 1157); and 1 Ashwood Gardens, Jordanhill, Glasgow (0141 434 1179)

COCK-A-LEEKIE stew

Serves six to eight

500ml chicken stock

250g diced carrots

250g diced celery

half a large onion, chopped

1 tbsp dry or fresh thyme

3 sprigs parsley

1 bay leaf

750g skinless chicken breasts, on the bone

750g skinless chicken thighs, on the bone

2 medium leeks, sliced

250g pearl barley

200g halved prunes (optional)

125ml milk

Place the chicken stock in a large pot and heat, along with the carrots, celery, onion, thyme, parsley and bay leaf. Season.

Add the chicken and bring to boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer about 25 minutes. From time to time skim off any fat.

Remove the chicken and let it cool. Remove the bones and tear the flesh into pieces. Discard the bones, and fish out the bay leaf and parsley from the stock. Replace the chicken meat in the pot and add the leeks, barley and prunes.

Cover and simmer gently until the barley is tender (about 15 to 20 minutes).

Just before serving, stir in the milk.

HAGGIS AND NEEPS MOUSSE

Serves six

250g haggis

120g turnip

25ml whisky (preferably a malt)

25ml single cream

2 large eggs, separated

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 170C/gas 3. Slice the haggis thickly and lay it out on a baking tray. Place in the oven for ten minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the turnip into chunks and boil in plenty of salted water until soft. Drain thoroughly and mash it up. Break up the haggis slices and mix them in. Add the whisky, the cream and the yolks of the eggs. Season.

Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks and then fold this through the turnip mix.

Lightly grease six ramekins with vegetable oil. Spoon the mixture into each and place the ramekins in a water bath. Cook in the oven (still at 170C/gas 3) for 20 minutes or until firm to the touch.

A REALLY TIPSY LAIRD

Serve in a whisky glass or Irish coffee cup

Serves six

6 tbsp whisky

juice and zest of 1 orange

6 trifle sponges

450g raspberries (frozen ones are fine)

110g white chocolate, grated

1 carton good quality fresh custard

400ml double cream

1 tub mascarpone cheese

55g toasted flaked almonds

Mix the whisky and orange juice in a shallow bowl. Slice the trifle sponges in half horizontally. Dunk each piece in the liquid and place two in the bottom of each glass.

Scatter the raspberries over the top, then the chocolate. Top with the custard.

Whip the cream until half-whipped then gently stir the cheese through it. Spoon this on top of the custard. Scatter the toasted almonds and the orange zest over the top just before serving.

Jacqueline O'Donnell Scottish City Chef of the Year