Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Och aye! It's Burns' Night!

Today sees one of the most exciting, patriotic nights for us Scots. It is Burns night, our annual celebration  of the poet Rabbie Burns. 

Burns has been at the forefront of my mind for a while as Miss B has a small anthology of his poems which she loves to have sung to her if she is finding it hard to settle for her daytime nap. Her favourite is A Man's A Man for A' That. This time last year we took part in a Burns Flashmob organised by the Scottish Poetry Library as part of their Let's get Lyrical campaign, which was a great day and we made the tea time news! That's us with the buggy and I'm in the red coat holding Boo.

Who was Robert Burns?
Robert Burns, affectionately known as ‘Rabbie’ Burns, was a Scottish farmer, poet and lyricist in the 18th century. A pioneer of the Romantic movement, and famous for incorporating the Scots dialect into his work, Burns is celebrated over the world as the ‘Bard of Ayrshire’ and ‘Scotland’s favourite son’. Here is an excellent link to a blog on Burns for Bairns, if you want to get the kids involved.

The recurring theme of freedom and the spontaneous, humorous nature of his works, as well as his humble beginnings as a farmer, have led to Burns becoming an icon of liberalism and socialism in not only his native Scotland, but also in countries like America and Russia, where he is known as the ‘people’s poet’.
Some of his notable works include: Address to a HaggisTo a Mouse, A Man’s A Man for A’ ThatScots Wha Hae,Ae Fond Kiss, Tam O’Shanter, and The Battle of Sherramuir. Perhaps his most famous work is Auld Lang Syne, though Burns himself is on record as saying that this was an existing song that he simply wrote the words down for. The BBC has a fantastic site with most of his poems, read by famous Scots.

Burns supper

Burns suppers are traditionally held on the 25th of January, the poet’s birthday. These can be simple meals at home or more lavish affairs, such as the ones that take place at official Burns Clubs and Scottish Societies.
Official Burns suppers often have a welcome speech by the evening’s host, before saying the Selkirk Grace:
“Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae let the Lord be thankit.”
After this, a soup course is served, typically Scotch Broth. After this is the the main course, a traditional Scottish haggis. Everyone stands for the entrance of the haggis, which is commonly accompanied with a bagpipe player, who may play A Man’s a Man for A’ That or The Star O’ Robbie Burns.

The host, or another speaker, then recites Address to a Haggis before the meal is served, usually with neeps and tatties (swede and potatoes). A dessert course may be served, usually consisting of a traditional Scottish recipe such as whisky trifle or cranachan.
Speeches are given after the meal, commemorating Burns’ memory, and ladies and gentlemen toast each other. Some of Burns’ songs and poetry may be recited as well, before everyone joins hands and sings Auld Lang Syne, bringing the evening to an end.
Are you and your family having your Burns supper at home? Here’s a traditional meal, courtesy of the Hairy Bikers for you to try!


For the clapshot
  • 500g/1lb 2oz floury potatoes, such as Maris Piper or King Edward, peeled, chopped
  • 500g/1lb 2oz swede (it's a yellow turnip), peeled, chopped
  • 50g/2oz butter
  • 75ml/2¾fl oz double cream
  • sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
For the whisky sauce
  • 500ml/17fl oz double cream
  • 2 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp whisky
  • sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
  • ½ lemon, juice only

Preparation method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
  2. Wrap the haggis tightly in aluminium foil and place onto a baking tray. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes to one hour, or until cooked through.
  3. Meanwhile, for the clapshot, boil the potatoes and swede in separate saucepans of salted water for 15-18 minutes, or until tender. Drain well. Add the drained swede to the drained potatoes and mash thoroughly. Add the butter and cream and mash again until smooth and well combined. Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground white pepper. Stir in the tablespoon of chives. Set aside and keep warm.
  4. For the whisky sauce, heat the double cream in a pan over a medium heat. Add the wholegrain mustard, Dijon mustard and whisky and stir to combine. Increase the heat until the mixture is simmering and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground white pepper. Stir in the tablespoon of chives, then whisk in the lemon juice.
  6. To serve, divide the clapshot equally among four serving plates. Place a spoonful of steamed haggis alongside each. Spoon over the warm whisky sauce.


  1. I'm going to a burns supper organised by p7 at my sons primary school :)

    1. They're the best Kathy! Unfortunately we haven't celebrated the last two Burn's suppers with friends because A has activities on! A is celebrating tonight with a Haggis Burrito! Enjoy. x

  2. apparently there was a flash ceilidh mob at lunchtime today at parliament square. wouldve been fun!

  3. I heard mutterings on Facebook but the wee one was sleeping in the buggy after Toddlers! That would have been fun. Even if it's only a small gathering, it's such good fun!

  4. All sounds great fun! Love the look of the food, I have never tried Hagis. Hope you all had a fab time celebrating :)


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