Burns night is celebrated with a supper and commerates the life and poetry of Scottish poet Robert Burns, known affectionately as Rabbie Burns, the National Bard, Bard of Ayrshire, the Ploughman Poet and many other various titles. He was born on 25 January 1759 in Alloway, Ayrshire in the Western lowlands of Scotland. He is the best known of the poets who have written in the Scottish Gaelic, though much of his writing is in a “light Scots dialect” of English, accessible to an audience beyond Scotland. He also wrote in standard English, and in these writings his political or civil commentary is often at its bluntest.
After his death on 21 July 1796, he became a great source of inspiration to the founders of both liberalism and socialism, and has remained a cultural icon in Scotland and among Scottish emigrants and their progeny throughout the world.
Many, though, throughout the English speaking world link arms and sing Auld Lang’s Syne, the best known of Rabbie’s compositions to mark the New Year in the modern calendar, after midnight.
The Battle of Sherramuir
“The Battle of Sherramuir” is a song written by Rabbie about the Battle of Sheriffmuir which occurred in Scotland in 1715 at the height of the Jacobite rising in England and Scotland. It was written when Burns toured the Highlands in 1787 and first published in The Scots Musical Museum, 1790. It was written to be sung to the ‘Cameronian Rant’.
Burns night suppers are normally held on or near the poet’s birthday, 25 January. There’s traditional dancing and neeps, haggis and tatties are the food of the day. All washed down with a Scottish whisky.
So let’s have a look at some great recipes for a traditional Burns Night.
Haggis, Neeps and Tatties
Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: Depends on cooking method (10 – 60 mins)
Serves: 41 haggis
400g neeps (swede [yellow turnip])
500g tatties (potatoes)
50ml milk (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
- Cook your haggis* according to the cooking method on pack.
- Meanwhile, peel your neeps and tatties.
- Cube them, then boil separately till tender.
- Drain, then mash separately with a good bit of butter.
- If you like, add a glug of milk to get a smoother consistency.
- Then add salt and pepper to taste.
- Once your haggis is ready, serve alongside the neeps and tatties for a traditional Burns supper.
Making your own Haggis is not for the feint hearted and some of the ingredients are not that easy to purchase, especially the sheep’s stomach bag in which it is cooked. You can cook the rest of the ingredients separately, though, but ensure it stays moist and should never be served dry.
1 sheep’s stomach bag
1 sheep’s pluck – liver, lungs and heart
250g beef Suet
salt and black pepper
a pinch of cayenne
150mls of stock/gravy
- Clean the stomach bag thoroughly and soak overnight. In the morning turn it inside out.
- Wash the pluck and boil for 1.5 hours, ensuring the windpipe hangs over the pot allowing drainage of the impurities.
- Mince the heart and lungs and grate half the liver.
- Chop up the onions and suet.
- Warm the oatmeal in the oven.
- Mix all the above together and season with the salt and pepper. Then add the cayenne.
- Pour over enough of the pluck boiled water to make the mixture watery.
- Fill the bag with the mixture until it’s half full.
- Press out the air and sew the bag up.
- Boil for 3 hours (you may need to prick the bag with a small needle if it fills up with air) without the lid on.
- Serve with neeps and tatties.
- Alternatively, buy a ready to cook haggis! It’s far easier and you are guaranteed to enjoy!
Best Place to Purchase
Although many supermarkets sell haggis, the best place to buy is from an award winning Scottish butcher. Some only do local delivery, though, but their are some award winning butchers that sell online. Also, if you have a delicate palate (like myself) you can try various alternative haggis, including vegan and vegetarian alternatives.