“Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftan o’ the puddin-race…” I’d like to say I know more, but that was the extent of the address my haggis got this Burns Night. I could have recited Scots Wae Hae, which I won a prize for reciting in primary school, or the first line of To A Mouse, but unless you’re of the notion that a haggis is in fact an actual animal, addressing it as a ‘sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie,’ may have had me laughed out of the kitchen.
Food writers often talk about foodie poetry, gorgeous ingredients that just work together like they were always meant to. The traditional Burns Supper is, in a way, one of them, but on a more literal scale. It is the celebration of food and poetry coming together to celebrate one of Scotland’s best writers and the beauty of it is the simplicity of the food involved. Creamy potatoes, great amber smatterings of neep and that culinary wonder that is the haggis. Peppery and spicy, it is the epitome of the great romantic himself, with his passionate love for words and women. Burns like to live his life devouring as much as he could; for him it was the ladies, for me, it’s simply food.
However this year, I’ve decided to deviate away from the simple and add a touch of grown-up elegance to the traditional meal. All the essential elements are there, but with a few tweaks. Tatties are transformed into a pan fried potato cake, with crunchy spring onions and a hint of roast garlic. Neeps are given a sweet makeover, cut into fries and roasted with honey, lifting their sweetness to a new level. The haggis needs no more dressing up, but the addition of a creamy whisky sauce gives thanks to the other Scottish staple, the nip.
And what Burns Supper would be complete without a glass of Cranachan? Whisky scented whipped cream, toasted oats, and with a swirl of bright pink raspberry, this dish of foodie poetry is screaming out for its own poem. Forget addressing the haggis, let’s address this fabulous dessert. My love is like a sweet, sweet pudding…
For the Main Meal
You Will Need
1 Small Neep
2 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon runny honey
2 large floury potatoes (I used Rooster)
A little milk and butter
2 Spring onions, chopped
1 small haggis
2 tablespoons double cream
1 tablespoon whisky
1 teaspoon of peppercorns
Salt and pepper to season
Preheat the oven to 200oc/180oc fan/gas mark 5. Wrap the haggis in foil and place in a pan of water over a medium heat and bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes. Cut the neap into 1 cm thick fries and add to a small pan of water. Bring to the boil then drain. Toss in 1 tablespoon of oil, season well and add to a baking tray with the garlic cloves. Roast in the oven for 40 minutes, turning regularly.
Peel the potatoes and cut into quarters then add to pan of boiling water and cook until tender. Drain and mash, adding a little butter, milk and seasoning. Remove the garlic from the tray of neeps and carefully squeeze into the mash. Leave to cool for 5 minutes.
In a frying pan, melt a little butter and sauté the spring onions for about 5 minutes until soft. Stir into the mash and then, using your hands, form into two balls and flatten slightly.
Once the haggis has 10 minutes to go, drizzle the honey over the neeps and return to the oven. Heat some more butter in the pan you used for the spring onions and fry the potato cakes, until crispy on both sides. Place in the oven to keep warm. In the same pan, over a high heat, add a small knob of butter, the whisky and a splash of water. Once bubbling, add the cream and peppercorns and stir until thick. Season to taste. Remove the haggis from the pan once cooked and cut through the skin.
To plate up, place a potato cake in the middle of the plate, then add some haggis. Place the neep fries to the side and drizzle with the whisky sauce.
For the Cranachan
You will need
200ml double cream
1 tablespoon whisky
1 tablespoon runny honey
A large handful of raspberries (if using frozen, defrost a couple of hours before)
A handful of porridge oats
Whip the cream to soft peaks and fold in the whisky and the honey. With the back of a fork, lightly mash the raspberries to create some texture. Toast the oats in a pan for a couple of minutes then add to the cream, reserving some for later. Marble through the raspberries and spoon into glasses. Top with the remaining toasted oats.