Burns Night

When T was little, her Mum and Dad used to tell her that January was Haggis season. On the 25th of the month, her dad would go out and shoot one for Burns Night supper. They are said to be small rabbit-sized creatures, with bright red hair and one leg shorter than the other (so they can walk on the mountainside with ease) and their call is a high pitched “Haggis Haggis!”

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We are pretty sure that every child with Scottish parents has heard some version of this story, and it wasn’t until the ripe old age of 13 where T learnt it wasn’t in fact true. To be honest, it would be more useful for our readers to carry on living this lie rather than learn the truth of what it consists of. We totally understand why parents do it.  If you eat haggis without knowing it is made from miscellaneous lamb offal, then you will know it is one of life’s most exotic delicacies.

True Scots will enjoy haggis any time of year, but it is most commonly experienced, and it is an experience, on Burns Night which is a Scottish National holiday which celebrates the life and work of the poet Robert Burns. You may know him most commonly from classics such as “Auld Lang Syne”, but there is so much more than just that. He wrote such beautiful works that resonate with T and her family such as:

“My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart’s in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;
Chasing the wild-deer, and following the roe,
My heart’s in the Highlands, wherever I go. ”
Robbert Burns, My Heart’s in the Highlands

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He is most famous for writing his poetry in the Scottish dialect, which is almost impossible to read. It isn’t until someone with a thick Scottish accent picks up a copy of Burns to read aloud and it suddenly all makes sense. His most exceptional work, in T’s opinion, is called Tam O’Shanter. It is an epic poem about a man named Tam (well, Tom) who gets really drunk on market night and has to ride home on his horse over the bleak Scottish Moores pissed out of his head and knowing his wife is appropriately seething at home. Anyway, he rides off and sees a church in the distance with the lights on. Being inquisitive, he rides up and looks through the window to see the devil, witches and a plethora of other ghosts, ghouls and all things evil having a party inside. He watches for a while fascinated by a particularly scantily clad witch. Long story short, they notice him and chase him across the Moore in a rather dramatic scene. It is so good but make sure you have someone Scottish read it to you, or it might as well be written in Sanskrit.

So, on Burns Night it is traditional to eat Haggis, Cranachan, Clootie Dumpling and drink your body weight in whisky all while reciting Burns. If there were an excuse for a raucous dinner party then it would be Burns Night, so we urge you to have a go. Listen to the music of someone like the Pretenders, have a dance and celebrate all things Scottish.

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Haggis is traditionally served with neeps and tatties (mash and swede), so if you want to go traditional, please go right ahead. However, the standard G&T style we wanted to have a little fun with it, so we have come up with a recipe for Haggis Scotch eggs… or Scotchish Eggs? If that works? Anyway, these would make a great starter, or even canapé if you just want an excuse to get pissed and just have a drinks party. It is essential for us to point out now that there is only one brand of haggis you should ever eat and that is McSweens. It can prove a little difficult to get hold of sometimes, but Booths will be your saviour. Pre-ordering is now unfortunatley closed, but feel free to pop into your nearest store and see if they have any still available. They have a few different sizes to choose from starting at £10 and running up to the ceremonial haggis which is a whopping 3.5 kilograms for just £25 – this must have been the Daddy Haggis.

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Booths are also jumping on the Burns Night band-waggon by hosting whisky tastings in selected stores nation-wide. They have a fantastic selection of Scotch whiskys that you will find anywhere. We treated ourselves to a bottle of The Ardmore highland single malt whisky which comes highly recommended. It is priced just over £30 as well, which is not bad for a whisky, sometimes they can cost hundreds of pounds. If you are looking to get into whisky then pop down to Booths on the 25th and have a taste, and their helpful staff would be more than happy to lend you a hand on making a choice on one to take home.

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If you don’t want to spend your evening reciting poetry with your mates, you have to just promise us that at the very least you will recite the ‘Address to a Haggis’… otherwise, the spirit of Rabbie Burns will be there to haunt and hurl abuse at you in true Scottish style.

“Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye worthy o’ a grace
As lang’s my arm.”
Robert Burns, Address to a Haggis

See what we mean about the dialect? Good luck guys – and remember if all else fails, the most Scottish thing you can do is get drunk on some good quality whiskey.

G&T

Haggis Scotch Eggs

Makes 4

250g McSweens Haggis, cooked

400g pork sausage meat

Tsp. Dijon mustard

1 tsp. rosemary

½ tsp. thyme

Six eggs

100g panko breadcrumbs

100g flour

1 litre of vegetable oil

Salt and Pepper

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Start by placing four of the eggs in a pan of cold water and bringing it to the boil. Once boiling, turn it down to a gentle simmer and cook for exactly four minutes. Once done, place them in a bowl of iced water for 15-20 minutes.

In the meantime, mix the haggis, sausage meat, herbs and mustard in a bowl. Season well with salt and pepper. Peel the eggs being careful not to break them. Clean your hands and grab a handful of the meat mixture. Flatten it out into a thin patty in one hand before placing the egg in the centre and wrapping it around. Help yourself to more meat if you feel it needs it and make sure that the egg is totally covered. Brush a tray with a little oil and place them on making sure they do not touch and chill in the fridge for an hour.

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Whisk up the two remaining eggs in one bowl and place the breadcrumbs and flour in two more bowls. Dip the chilled eggs in the egg, then into the flour, then back into the egg and finally into the panko. Finally, heat your oil up in a deep pan to about 200 degrees and deep fry your eggs two at a time for 10-12 minutes. Be sure to drain on kitchen paper to soak up excess oil before serving.

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Hello! We are Ginseng & Thyme, two friends and work colleagues from Manchester with a passionate affinity for food, drink and lifestyle. Here’s our food story, what’s yours? Twitter: @ginsengandthyme Instagram: @ginsengandthyme

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