Robert Burns (Rabbie Burns) (1759 – 1796) is Scotland’s most famous poet. He is celebrated on the anniversary of his birth (January 25th ) at a Burns Night. Celebrations include eating, drinking, and many toasts with whisky and a recitation of Robbie Burns’ poem Address to a Haggis.
On Burns night, Scots gather together for a Burns Night Supper with traditional Scottish fare. The menu includes haggis, tatties (boiled potatoes) and neeps (turnips) and concludes with a Tipsy Laird Trifle.The Ceremony begins with a bagpipe serenade and the Selkirk Grace:
“Some hae meat and cannot eat.
Some cannot eat that want it:
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.’
Next, the Haggis is presented to the diners to the sound of bagpipes and clapping. The traditional Address to the Haggis is recited before the knife is plunged into the haggis and dinner is served:
‘His knife, see rustic labour dicht
An’ cut ye up wi’ ready slight’
A traditional “Toast to the Lassies” is made by a male guest as thanks to the women in their lives. Burns’ poems are recited. Finally, the night ends with everyone joining hands and singing “Auld Lang Syne”.
A note on haggis: Haggis is an ancient sausage- or pudding-like dish prepared from sheep’s ‘pluck’ (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally simmered in the animal’s stomach for approximately three hours. Haggis which is made from the animal offal was a dish for the poor, using the cheapest ingredients available but it has become a beloved, traditional dish. It is so popular that Scotland’s poet, Robert Burns wrote an “Address to a Haggis.”
Excerpt from Address to a Haggis, Robert Burns
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 wordy of a grace
As lang’s my arm.
Today, haggis remains a popular dish but it is often prepared in something other than a sheep’s stomach. And to those unwary tourists who take time from a visit to Scotland to search out a haggis, a mountain beast with its front legs shorter than the back, don’t believe everything you hear.
Haggis Recipe from Rampant Scotland.com (Can order your haggis there)
Set of sheep’s heart, lungs and liver (cleaned by a butcher)
One beef bung
3 cups finely chopped suet
One cup medium ground oatmeal
Two medium onions, finely chopped
One cup beef stock
One teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
One teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon mace
Trim off any excess fat and sinew from the sheep’s intestine and, if present, discard the windpipe. Place in a large pan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for an hour or possibly longer to ensure that they are all tender. Drain and cool.
Some chefs toast the oatmeal in an oven until it is thoroughly dried out (but not browned or burnt!)
Finely chop the meat and combine in a large bowl with the suet, oatmeal, finely chopped onions, beef stock, salt, pepper, nutmeg and mace. Make sure the ingredients are mixed well. Stuff the meat and spices mixture into the beef bung which should be over half full. Then press out the air and tie the open ends tightly with string. Make sure that you leave room for the mixture to expand or else it may burst while cooking. If it looks as though it may do that, prick with a sharp needle to reduce the pressure.
Place in a pot and cover with water. Bring to the boil and immediately reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for three hours. Avoid boiling vigorously to avoid bursting the skin.
Serve hot with “champit tatties and bashit neeps” (mashed/creamed potato and turnip/swede). For added flavour, you can add some nutmeg to the potatoes and allspice to the turnip/swede. Some people like to pour a little whisky over their haggis – Drambuie is even better! Don’t go overboard on this or you’ll make the haggis cold.
Tomorrow, A Roman Fort on Hadrian’s Wall Rita Bay