Burn’s night seems to me to be a very masculine occasion with its strict etiquette , barrels of whisky and wailing pipe music. Add to that the robust, some might even say repellent main dish and you have a feast for the most testosterone charged evening. For surely only boys would want to let rip with a dagger at the nether parts of an old sheep, minced and stuffed into its own bladder .
I have to admit to not really loving Burn’s poetry either but a party is a party and it should never be said that I would pass up an opportunity for a bit of a shindig.
I have slightly modified the food here to make it not only more palatable to me but also a little more elegant. The true flavours of Scotland are there but perhaps with a little more subtlety and a few fewer drams.
Begin with these haggis canapés, I made them with haggis bought from my butcher but haggis are widely available at this time of year and are stocked by many supermarkets.
Wild mushroom soup follows, then a golden flaky topped venison pie and to end a variation on that sustaining drink created by the Duke of Athol that reportedly gave his soldiers a vital fillip and so made the difference between success on the battle field and ignominy. Here I have toasted the oatmeal and piled it, sundae like into tall glasses, interwoven with layers of rich whisky laced syllabub .
My recipes feed eight so invite a few friends and in the words of the poet
” See the smoking bowl before us
Mark our jovial ragged ring
Round and round take up the chorus
And in raptures let us sing”
Now there’s a drinking song if ever I heard one .
Haggis and apple canapés
This to me is the perfect way to eat the compulsory haggis on Burn’s Night.
1/2 French stick
a little olive oil
2 red skinned apples
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
Cut the bread into 1/4″ thick slices and arrange these on a baking sheet. Drizzle with a little olive oil and bake in a hot oven 200C 400F gas mk 6 for 5-7 minutes or until lightly coloured.
Remove and cook on a wire rack.
Core the apples then cut into thin slices. Fry these a few at a time in hot olive oil until coloured on both sides. Arrange on a plate until needed.
Just before serving. cut the peeled haggis into thin slices and fry these over a brisk heat until hot a slightly crisp. Don’t worry if they crumble a little you will still be able to pile it onto the toasts.Meanwhile warm the toasts and apple slices.
To assemble the canapés pile some haggis onto each piece of bread squashing it down a little. balance on a piece of fried apple ring and arrange on a platter. Grind over some pepper and serve with tots of whisky.
Wild mushroom and roasted onion soup.
This soup has a wonderfully dense colour and flavour but is quite light to eat and it is not thickened in any way.
450gm 1 lb. peeled weight large onions
30gm 1 oz butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
55gm 2 oz mixed dried mushrooms
1 pint hot water
2 pints beef, chicken or vegetable stock
fresh thyme leaves
3-4 tablespoons oloroso sherry
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put the mushrooms into a deep bowl cover with the hot water and leave to soak for about 1 hour.Sort the mushrooms and cut away any woody or gritty part. Strain the mushroom soaking water through muslin and reserve.Cut the mushrooms into bite sized pieces
Meanwhile cut the onions in half and slice finely.Melt the butter in a large roasting tin and add the oil.
Throw in the onions and roast in a hot oven 200C 400f gas mk 6 until the onions are evenly brown. You will have to stir them quite often and watch towards the end of cooking they have a habit of burning quickly once the colour starts!
When the onion are mid to dark brown remove the dish from the oven and place over a low heat. Add the mushrooms and stir fry for 2-3 minutes. Now add the mushroom soaking liquor and stir to scrape up any bits that have stuck to the pan.
Pour this into a deep saucepan and add the stock and thyme leaves. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes until the mushrooms re tender.Taste the soup and correct the seasoning. This can be done ahead.
Just before serving add the sherry and bring the soup to boiling point. Serve in hot bowls.
Rich venison and port pie
Make the filling ahead and top with ready rolled flaky pastry up to four hours before final cooking.
1kg 2lb.4oz venison, trimmed weight
1 large leek cleaned and chopped
1 large carrots peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic peeled and finely chopped
1 satsuma washed and diced
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons port
freshly ground black pepper
110gm 4 oz smoked streaky bacon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pint game or chicken stock
225gm 8 oz button mushrooms
200gm 7 oz peeled cooked chestnuts
340gm 12 oz ready rolled all butter puff pastry
beaten egg to glaze
Cut the venison into largish pieces ,trimming away any sinew or gristle.
Place in a large ceramic or glass bowl with the leek, carrot, garlic, satsuma and thyme. Add the oil port and freshly ground black pepper. Turn everything together two or three times then leave to marinate for at least 6 hours or better yet overnight.
Heat the olive oil in heavy bottom frying pan or metal casserole dish and when hot lift the meat from the bowl using a slotted spoon and fry it for a few minutes over a very high heat. You are trying to caramelise some of the meat juices to give a deeper flavour.
after about 3-4 minutes pour in the remaining juices from the bowl, add the stock and a little salt and bring to simmering point. Cover the dish, turn down the heat and cook for 1-2 hours or until the meat is almost tender.
Now briefly fry the mushrooms in the butter and add to the pot along with the chestnuts.
Allow to cool and spoon into a pie dish.When cold top with pastry in the usual manner decorate with the trimmings ,cut a vent in the centre and brush with beaten egg.
Chill until needed.
Heat the oven to 200C 400F gas mk 6 and when hot put in the pie. After 10 minutes turn the heat down to 370F 190C gas mk 5 and continue cooking until the pastry is deep golden brown , about 40 minutes in total.
Serve with mashed potatoes and mashed swede (neeps)
Toasted oats and whisky Cream sundaes.
Fresh raspberries are available in the shops but if the budget wont stretch use de-frosted frozen berries sprinkled with a little sugar.
110gm 4 oz jumbo oats
55gm 2oz butter
4 tablespoons golden syrup
3/4 pint double cream
2 tablespoon clear honey
grated zest and juice of an unwaxed lemon
3-4 tablespoons whisky or to taste
fresh or frozen raspberries
Begin by melting the butter and syrup and mixing in the oats. Spread the mixture on a baking sheet and cook in the eh oven 200C 400F gas mk 6 for 6-8 minutes or until golden brown. Break up into small pieces and allow to col. Store in an air-tight tin until needed.
Make the whisky cream Mix the whisky, honey and lemon juice until the honey dissolves. Add this plus the lemon zest to the cream and whisk until thick but still mobile.Chill for up to 24 hours.
To assemble the sundaes chose eight pretty glasses. (Not too large, this dish is quite rich.) Place some of the crisp oats in a the bottom of each one add some cream and a few raspberries then more oats more cream and more fruit. It really doesn’t matter which layer you finish with so continue until you run out of ingredients.
Chill until needed. These sundaes can be assembles up to 2 hours ahead.