If you’re feeling a little low after the Christmas and New Year festivities, there’s still Burns Night to look forward to. A national institution in Scotland, it’s celebrated on or around 25th January, the birthday of Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns. If you’ve never held a Burns Night event before, here’s our guide to an event to remember.
The Burns Night supper
Pivotal to the event is a traditional meal. The menu starts with cock-a-leekie (chicken and leek) soup, followed by haggis then clootie pudding, a rich fruity suet pudding boiled in a ‘cloot’, or muslim bag.
Haggis is a boiled meat pudding traditionally made from ‘sheep’s pluck’ (offal), and boiled in a sheep’s stomach. You can make an easier version as follows:
Use two lamb’s kidneys, 350g of lean lamb shoulder meat and 300g beef liver. Boil the meat for an hour, then mince it. Mix it with 150g oatmeal, 130g beef suet, two finely chopped onions, 240ml beef stock salt and pepper to taste. Pack the mixture into a greased pudding basin, and cover with several layers of aluminium foil. Wrap a length of string round the bowl to secure the foil, and steam it over a large pan of boiling water for two hours before serving with ‘neeps and tatties’ (swedes and potatoes).
The order of events
If you want a thoroughly traditional night, you may have to start planning a little way in advance! Full-scale events in Scotland will have a piper on hand to ‘pipe in the guests’, who’ll play his bagpipes up until the meal is served. Otherwise, improvise with a DVD of pipe music.
The host of the evening should then give a short speech welcoming the guests and introducing the evening’s entertainment.
If you’re feeling confident, you could also give the traditional Scottish grace, known as the Selkirk Grace or ‘Burns’ Grace at Kirkcudbright’.
“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.”
Once the first course is out of the way, the haggis should be ceremoniously carried in, and a brave person selected to read the address, To the haggis. The reciter makes a ceremonial slit in the haggis at the end of the address, then the assembled company should raise a glass of whisky and toast the haggis before it’s carved up and served.
If anyone’s still got any energy left, the evening should conclude with a recital of Burns’ work and a rendition of Auld Lang Syne.
Creating the atmosphere
Get into the mood with these castle-style accessories.
‘Stag’s head’, Artisanti
Create a stunning but non-controversial conversation piece with this shiny metal sculpture. £89 from Artisanti.
Tartan cushions, WowThankYou and Oscar and Eve
These bright tartan cushion is a modern take on a traditional theme. Current £21.60, was £36 from WowThankYou.
The soft, muted tones of this wool cushion will fit into any décor, and the pom pom edging adds an individual look. Currently £21, was £42.50 from Oscar and Eve.
Coasters, Alison at Home
These stylish coasters in petrol blue leather will help protect your table from enthusiastic whisky toasters! £15 for a set of four, from Alison at Home.
Heather soap, Creative Aspirations
The soft, floral scent of this handmade soap evokes mountain air and Scottish moors. Containing no mineral oils or artificial ingredients, the soap’s suitable for all skin types and costs £10 for a 100g bar from Soak Away.
Tartan throw, Tweedmill Cottage
Snuggle up after the party with this pure new wool throw in blues and greens, by Tweedmill Cottage. Available from One Brown Cow, was £45, now £33.75.