Burns Night is the annual time when Scots and Scots-at-heart come together to celebrate the life and works of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns. This is typically done with a glass or two of whiskey and a haggis supper, with some of the poet’s works read aloud. Here is what you need to know about creating your own Burns Night food and drink feast from our resident Scot, Alexa Muir.
Essentials for a traditional Burns Night Supper
If you’re embarking on your first Burns Night Supper, there are some fundamental things to not miss (reciting “Address to a Haggis” is entirely optional). First off is the haggis itself. No Burns Supper is complete without one. Next, you need the “neeps and tatties”, or mashed turnips and potatoes to those south of the border. If you don’t fancy turnips, a swede makes an excellent alternative. Why not try adding some nutmeg, or even making a combined carrot and swede mash, which adds a sweet flavoured counterpoint to the mashed potato.
Doing things differently
Fancy straying from the traditional? Why not try our haggis ravioli & neep broth recipe? Perfect for when you want something a bit lighter but with the taste of a traditional supper.
If you want to keep a bit closer to the original, we recommend a haggis shepherd’s pie – just replace the beef with haggis and in next to no time you can have yourself a meal fit for a poet. And if you want to be really fancy, you can make some swede and carrot mash along with the mashed potato and use piping bags to do alternate lines of each across the top. Pretty and tasty.
No Burns Night Supper would be complete without a “wee dram” (we won’t tell anyone if you add some ice). But there are a number of options with whiskey, so it pays to consider what type of flavour you’re after. If you want something Scottish and smokey, look for peat whiskeys like this Peat Pure Islay from Element of Islay. Or for a sweeter note, try this Port Askaig 8-Year-Old Whiskey with flavours of honeysuckle. From south of the border, we also have the Sacred Peated English Whiskey from Sacred Spirits, with nutty and rich nuances resulting in a deep and satisfying single malt. And finally, but by no means least, there’s this award-winning, rich and fruity Single Malt Whiskey from Cotswolds Distillery, the first whiskey to be made in the Cotswolds.
Why haggis is good for the environment
Long before half-meat burgers were the latest craze to sweep the low-meat menu options, haggis was already a trailblazer. Made up of mostly oats, the original, natural superfood, haggis uses a mince of sheep’s heart, liver and lungs (the sheep’s pluck) combined with oatmeal, onion, suet, spices and salt mixed with stock. While traditionally this would be encased in stomach lining, nowadays they use the regular casing you’d find on any sausage. It creates a peppery, meaty mix that goes beautifully with mashed vegetables.
Put off by the thought of all that sheep? There are now plenty of vegetarian options, using mashed lentils or beans alongside mushrooms to recreate the flavour and texture of haggis without the meat.