Every year, on the 25th of January, Scots all around the world celebrate the life and works of the great Robert Burns by hosting Burns suppers.
With Scotland in its second national lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s Burns suppers will be very different, so and we’ve put together a few ideas for how you can enjoy Burns’ birthday safely at home – and still celebrate the great man’s life and works, while experiencing the best that Scottish food and drink has to offer in the process.
To get started
Your Burns supper has to pack a punch in as simple and delicious a way as possible.
To start, we recommend making a traditional Scottish soup – such as Cock-a-Leekie, Scotch Broth, or Cullen Skink (we always make this version by Cafe Gandolfi in Glasgow) served with . For a simpler soup, try our Boyndie Broth – a simple oatmeal and vegetable soup – or if you just can’t get enough haggis, Foodie Quine’s haggis, neeps and tatties soup would be a good way to start.
The centrepiece of every Burns supper is of course the haggis, serves with neeps and tatties. As much as we’d love to insist that the and are the centre of any proper Burns supper – that honour goes to Scotland’s national dish, the humble haggis. At the Burns supper it is treated with much pomp and ceremony, and the reverence to which it is held is almost ritualistic.
Although haggis is widely available in butchers and supermarkets, if you have more time at home this year we recommend having a go at making your own ‘chieftain o’ the pudding race’ with .
If you’re having a go at Veganuary this year, or are just looking for a substitute for the meat-heavy traditional haggis, then look no further than our .
Traditionally, the haggis is piped into the supper club’s top table, where the Chairman will read Burns’ ‘Address to a Haggis’ and cuts it open. At this point guests toast the haggis with a dram of Scottish whisky, and it is then served.
Unless you live with someone who can play the pipes (you lucky thing) then you can add some drama to your evening by ceremonially delivering the haggis to your top (or kitchen) table to Scotland the Brave– and you might have to rely on whatever bottle of whisky you have left over from Christmas to get you through the toast.
And don’t forget to recite the Selkirk Grace, also known as Burn’s Grace at Kircudbright before you eat.
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it.
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.
Sweet Things and Scottish Whisky
It is typical of most Burns suppers that the whisky is opened in order to toast the haggis – however, this is by no means the only time that Scotland’s ‘Water of Life’ makes an appearance at the supper table.
– a traditional Scottish dessert of toasted oats, raspberries, cream, and whisky layered in tall glasses – is the traditional way to end the Burns supper feast. Due to the layered nature of this delicious dessert, diners can construct their own cranachans at the dinner table – making it the ideal dessert to serve for this year’s reduced capacity celebration.
– a traditional steamed pudding that gets its name from the cloth that it is cooked and served in – is a popular alternative.
And if you still haven’t had enough haggis, back to Foodie Quine for a chocolate haggis (aka shortbread and whisky fridge cake).
Finish off your meal with a cheese board featuring cheeses from around Scotland served alongside hobnobby biscuits by Chef Rory Lovie as a slightly sweeter alternative.from Miller’s Larder, or try these
We recently enjoyed a home-delivered cheese box from Errington Cheese, including the delicious Lanark Blue which was a great way to try a selection of cheeses.
A Burns supper wouldn’t be complete without some traditional entertainment, and we see this year as no different.
Follow your meal with renditions of Burns’ works- such as ‘A Red, Red Rose’, fan favourite ‘Tam o’ Shanter’, or a fully throated rendition of ‘Auld Lang Syne’. If you can’t find a collection of Burns’ poetry in the house (shame on you!), or if you don’t want to read them yourself, you’ll find recordings of more than 700 of Burns’ works by some of Scotland’s best-loved actors on the BBC website.
Another tradition is the Toast to the Lassies, and the Reply from the Lassies – where a male guest will stand up and deliver a humorous and often scathing toast to the women in the room – and a female guest will stand up and reply in turn.
We think this traditional proto-‘roast’ is a great feature and no pandemic should get in the way of it – but do try to remember that you’re stuck in the house with the people that you are so fondly berating, so don’t go too far!
If you don’t fancy the prospect of belting out ‘Ae Fond Kiss’ in front of your kids, then BBC Scotland have got you covered with a special Burns Night celebration with Eddie Reader, Karen Matheson and Robyn Stapleton accompanied by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra from 8pm on 25th January.