Tom Kitchin: ‘Burns Night is a perfect excuse to enjoy our wonderful produce’

MANY of you will know I’m a huge fan of Burns Night and the traditional menu of cock-a-leekie soup or Scotch broth followed by haggis, neeps and tatties.

It is a perfect excuse to enjoy all that is great about our wonderful produce and an ideal time to gather friends and family together for a warming, delicious home-made meal. I really think there’s no menu more fitting for a cold January night. Depending on when 25 January falls, we try to have a family meal, or invite a few friends over for our own Burns supper.

In this magazine, I’ve tried in the past to inspire people to plan their own gathering and create their own twist on a Burns supper. My own recipe for haggis, neeps and tatties is a reinvention of our national dish. It’s quite different and a bit lighter than the traditional recipe as I lightly pickle the neeps and my potatoes are fine and crispy. I’ve adapted the recipe over the years in the hope that people will try it for supper any time, not just on Burns Night.

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I’ve also shared my love of whisky desserts and my Scottish twist on a French dessert (the rum baba) in the form of a whisky baba. The one thing that remains true of all the recipes I suggest for Burns is that they are fun to create. It’s a joy to take classic, simple recipes and keep their essence, but give them your own unique adaptation. It can be something very simple that makes the dish your own.

I always try something different so, although this year I’ll be serving up my own modern twist on haggis, neeps and tatties, I wanted to offer some fresh ideas so you can try something new too. The key to a successful meal is getting the freshest, best quality ingredients and working from there. Visit your butcher for the best haggis you can find. Make your tatties the way you like them – there are so many varieties and you don’t need to stick to traditional mash if it’s not your favourite. Try adding different vegetables, like carrots, to turnips, for a colourful addition to the plate and an earthy flavour.

Use your leftovers to make a delicious meal the following evening, and don’t feel you have to stick with tradition two nights in a row. Haggis can be a great addition to many other recipes too, from starters to easy suppers and snacks. You can even serve it with other meats if you’re careful about accompaniments. I love this recipe for pork fillet with sautéed apple, haggis and whisky sauce. The flavours combine so well, yet it still celebrates the Burns Night essence of haggis and whisky.

If you’re really stuck for ideas, the queen of haggis, Jo Macsween, has just launched her very own Macsween Haggis Bible with 50 recipes proving just how versatile haggis is.

Shortbread is another great addition to your Burns Night supper, either as part of a dessert or with teas and coffees to end the evening on a sweetly Scottish note. Adding oats gives it some nutritional benefits too.

It’s great to see so many people celebrating Burns Night; even my young sons have heard about Burns at nursery. I’m told that next week is Scottish Week in schools – a chance to celebrate all that is great about our home-grown produce.

We like to make shortbread for the boys to share with their teachers and friends and I feel inspired that the young generations are learning about Scottish traditions and foods early on. This shortbread recipe provides 
another chance to add your own twist, whether you want to add chocolate or fruits or something else that is a personal favourite.

Whatever menu or recipes you celebrate Burns Night with this year, I urge you to challenge yourself a little in the kitchen, take the opportunity to share it with friends and family, but most of all have fun – in the kitchen and eating the efforts of all your hard work and creativity.

Pork fillet with sautéed apple, haggis and whisky sauce

Serves four

4 pork fillet (tenderloin) pieces, about 160-170g each

sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

olive oil for cooking

2 crisp, green-skinned dessert apples

300g good-quality haggis

50g butter

100ml whisky

250ml whipping cream

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Heat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Season the pork fillets with salt and cracked black pepper.

Heat a non-stick ovenproof frying pan over a medium-high heat and add a little olive oil. When hot, add the pork fillets and cook for two or three minutes, turning to colour all over.

Transfer the pan to the oven for five or six minutes to finish cooking the pork. In the meantime, cut each apple into six wedges and remove the core, then set aside.

When the pork is cooked through, transfer it to a warm plate and set aside in a warm place to rest. Meanwhile, return the pan to the heat, add the haggis and fry for two or three minutes on each side until cooked. Remove from the pan and place with the pork.

Now add the butter to the pan, allow to melt and add the apples. Sauté for three or four minutes. Now add the whisky and flambé, standing well back and using a long match to set the alcohol alight. Once the flame has subsided, let the liquor bubble to reduce right down, then remove the apples with a slotted spoon and add them to the pork.

Pour the cream into the pan, bring to the boil and season with a little salt and pepper. Reduce again, until thickened to the required consistency. Taste and adjust as necessary.

Slice the pork fillets and arrange on warm plates with the haggis. Pour on the creamy sauce and finish with the sautéed apple wedges.


75g oats

175g flour

125g cornflour

25g icing sugar

300g butter

2 tbsp caster sugar

Sieve the flour and the icing sugar together into a bowl. Add the oats and mix together.

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Add the butter and knead by hand until the mixture is light and forms a dough. Shape the mixture into a rectangular log, then wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least two hours or until very firm.

Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas mark 5 
and line a baking sheet with parchment. Slice the dough into 1cm slices and lay out on the baking sheet.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with caster sugar, then leave the shortbread to cool for five to ten minutes on the baking tray, before removing on to a wire rack.

Twitter: @tomkitchin