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If you’re planning your own Burns Night celebrations, look no further for tips on how to prepare the traditional meal of haggis with neeps and tatties, as well as a vegan alternative to the haggis. Here are Burns Night recipes for the whole family to enjoy.
Every year on January 25, Scottish people celebrate the birth of Scotland’s most-celebrated poet Robert Burns.
Burns’ poetry praised what he believed were the best things about Scottish culture and traditions, including haggis, drinking whisky and the beautiful landscapes.
Five years after the poet’s death, in 1801, some of his closest friends hosted a dinner party to reminisce about their friend, eat his favourite foods, and perform some of his poems.
This was how the Burns Night Supper tradition began, and 221 years later many still celebrate Burns Night by eating his favourite meal – haggis with neeps and tatties – drinking a wee dram of whisky, and singing Auld Lang Syne.
So, if you would like to host your own Burns Night Supper, here are some tips on how to prepare traditional Scottish dishes – don’t forget to wash them down with a wee dram of Scotch whisky!
How to prepare haggis
Described by Burns as “Great Chieftain o’ the Puddin-race” in his famous poem, Address to a Haggis, which is traditionally recited as the haggis is served, this Scottish dish is well worth a try.
In Robert Burns’ time, haggis was made by hunters taking the offal – heart, liver and kidneys – of a sheep, and seasoning them before using the sheep’s stomach as a casing to cook the offal in.
Today, there’s no need to spend time stuffing a sheeps’ stomach – you can buy ready-made haggis from the supermarket or most butchers.
Your haggis should come with instructions, but most commonly it just needs to be boiled or steamed.
How to make neeps and tatties
If your Scots isn’t up to scratch, here’s a lesson for you: “neeps” is Scots for turnips, and “tatties” for potatoes.
Traditional neeps and tatties are basically mashed potatoes and mashed turnips.
For a super smooth mashed potato, choose a nice waxy potato like a Maris Piper.
Peel, chop and boil the potatoes, then when it’s time to mash them, add plenty of butter, and a splash of milk.
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When it comes to your mashing technique, you can opt for elbow grease and a traditional potato masher, or reach for an electric whisk for an ultra-creamy mash.
For the neeps, a coarser texture is traditional.
So, follow the same steps of chopping and boiling your turnip or swede, but when you add butter and milk don’t go too hard on the mashing.
Make sure to season with salt and pepper before serving.
How to prepare vegetarian haggis
Many traditions change over time, and as many more people follow vegan or vegetarian diets now than they did in Robert Burns’ time. Innovating recipes for vegan haggis is a twist on a classic to make sure every guest at your Burns Supper can take part in tradition.
Some supermarkets now stock vegetarian alternatives to haggis, but you can also make your own following a simple recipe.
All you need to do is replace your offal with green lentils, and use vegetable fat instead of animal suet.
You will need to sautee a chopped onion and a clove of garlic in a frying pan with vegetable oil on a low heat before adding the green lentils.
Season your lentil mix with salt, pepper, and any other herbs and spices you like: nutmeg and thyme work particularly nicely.
To help form your haggis sausage, take the lentil mix off the heat. Once it’s cool, add 50 grams of porridge oats and 100 grams of vegetable suet.
Wrap the mixture tightly in cling film, rolling it into a sausage shape.
Then, you can simmer or steam your vegan haggis for around an hour.
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