THROUGHOUT the year, my ingredients, recipes, menus and cooking celebrate all that is great about Scotland’s natural larder. Burns Night is a chance to remember the great Robert Burns, but also the wonderful food we have access to in Scotland.
With Burns Night falling on a Sunday this year, it’s the ideal excuse to gather some friends and family to have a January evening feast.
The traditional Burns supper menu starts with Cullen Skink – a celebration of our seas and our wonderful local seafood – or Scotch Broth – packed with vegetables, barley and lamb, and a real celebration of our land. Both of these hearty soups are a perfect warming start to the feast ahead and are simple to make from scratch at home.
The main event is always the haggis, neeps and tatties. Over the years, I’ve created my own take on the traditional dish, but even when I give it my personal twist, the foundations remain the same. Get your hands on some good quality haggis, fresh turnips and potatoes, and you can’t go wrong. I try not to save haggis for Burns Night only as it’s such a wonderful treat. If you have leftover haggis, there are lots of different things you can try the night after, from starters and snacks to main dishes.
A traditional Burns menu often includes cranachan, but I prefer not to use raspberries out of season so I often try to incorporate a little whisky in my desserts for Burns Night. It’s another of Scotland’s great products that deserves to be celebrated. Over the years, we’ve enjoyed whisky babas, whisky panna cotta or a chocolate financier with a whisky sabayon. This year, we’re going to be making a sticky toffee pudding, and giving it a little kick of whisky.
And if that’s not enough, then a final wee dram can be the perfect finish to a meal that celebrates Scotland, and all its wonderful produce.
HAGGIS, NEEPS and TATTIES
For the tatties:
500g large potatoes
60ml milk – boiling
400g sea salt
For the neeps:
1 large neep
pinch of nutmeg
For the potato crisp:
1 large potato
10ml clarified butter
For the tatties: Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4. Prick the potatoes, place the sea salt on a baking tray and put the potatoes on top. Bake for 1½ hours or until the potatoes are soft. Once cooked, cut in half and scoop out the potato, then slowly add the butter, milk and season. Set aside.
For the neeps: Peel and dice the neep, then cook in a pan of salted water until tender. Drain and mash with butter, salt and nutmeg and set aside.
For the potato crisp: Peel the potato and slice into thin strips. Mix with clarified butter and salt. Place into a non-stick pan in the shape you wish, and then gently heat until crispy.
For 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 two to three hours.
To serve Open the haggis and serve with equal amounts of neeps and tatties, crispy potato and a wee dram.
100g pearl barley
75g split peas
1kg mutton – shoulder, flank or neck
1 tsp salt
2 cloves of garlic
1 large chopped onion
1 large chopped leek
3 carrots peeled and diced
¼ small cabbage shredded
1 medium swede (rutabaga) peeled and diced
2 sticks celery
1 tbsp chopped parsley
salt and pepper
Soak the pearl barley and the split peas for a minimum of three hours, preferably overnight (rinse before adding to the pot). Trim the fat from the mutton. Place the mutton, barley and peas in cold water with the garlic and salt and slowly bring to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes with lid on, skimming any fat or residue that floats to the surface. Add the remaining vegetables and simmer gently until the lamb is thoroughly cooked.
Remove the mutton from the pot and separate the meat from the bone. Return the meat to the pot. Season to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add a sprinkle of chopped parsley and serve while hot.
STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING with WHISKY
For the pudding:
2½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp baking powder
For the caramel sauce:
1kg brown sugar
1l light cream
250g butter (diced)
50ml-100ml of whisky depending on your taste preference
A handful of candied walnuts to serve
For the pudding: Preheat the oven to 160C/Gas Mark 3 and grease and flour eight individual pudding moulds. Cook down the dates and water until they form a paste. Add bicarbonate of soda, then turn off the heat and mix together. Cream the butter and sugar, add the date paste, the eggs and finally the flour and baking powder. Place the mix in the moulds and cook until a skewer comes out clean.
For the caramel sauce: Bring the cream and sugar to the boil. Whisk in the butter, then add the whisky. Simmer until reduced and thick.
To serve: Remove the puddings from the moulds. Pour over the caramel sauce and serve with your choice of cream, custard or ice cream. I also like to serve mine with a few candied walnuts on top.