Scottish meal celebrates poet who authored ‘Auld Lang Syne’

Burns Supper is upcoming Jan. 25. Our close Scottish friends Aileen and Gordon Dickinson have invited us to join their Burns Supper again this year via Zoom, along with their best friends Elaine and Kenneth Douglas.

Burns Supper is celebrated in Scotland to commemorate the life of Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759 – 1796). Burns is best known in America as the author of “Auld Lang Syne.”

Aileen, Gordon, Elaine and Kenneth always follow what is considered the standard order for Burns Supper. The centerpiece of the meal is haggis, which is shaped like an American (or rugby) football. It is served as part of an elaborate ceremony.

Kenneth stands over the haggis and recites — in Gaelic — Burns’ “Address to a Haggis” from memory. Here are the last two lines of the eight-stanza poem:

Auld Scotland wants nae skinkin ware, that jaups in luggies;

But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer, Gie her a haggis!

For those of us who don’t know Gaelic, here’s the translation:

Old Scotland wants no watery, wimpy stuff, that splashes about in little wooden bowls;

But, if you will grant her a grateful prayer, Give her a Haggis!

Haggis, is most definitely not watery, wimpy stuff. The traditional recipe calls for cooking the heart, lungs, liver, and other chunks of lamb in suet, adding coarse oatmeal, and stuffing the mix into an ox bung (which the internet tells me is the cleaned appendix used for sausage casing).

Our Scottish friends assure us that they purchase haggis made from only ground lamb, ground beef, oats, onions and spices. No “offal.”

I’ve ordered haggis from a British food specialist that delivers in the U.S. The dirty little secret with haggis is the ease of finding vegetarian versions. The version I ordered contains only carrots, mushrooms, oatmeal, red beans and garbanzo beans.

Wearing kilts, Kenneth uses a long knife to cut through the haggis. A Scotch whisky toast is proposed, and the company sits.

Accompanying the haggis are neeps (mashed turnips) and tatties (mashed potatoes). A lot of gray-colored mash, so I’ll add a few sprigs of green, such as (my produce of the year) microgreens.

The meal starts with cock-a-leekie soup. As the name implies, the base is chicken and leeks.

The meal ends with cranachan, considered “the uncontested king of Scottish dessert.” To make cranachan, stir 2 ounces of steel-cut oats in a heated frying pan until toasty. Don’t burn them, and don’t use instant oats.

Crush 6 ounces of raspberries with a fork. Combine 1 pint heavy cream (I use creme fraiche) with the toasted oats, 3 tablespoons single-malt Scotch, and 1 tablespoon honey.

Layer crushed berries on the bottom of a bowl or divide into individual glasses. Cover with the cream mix. Top off by sprinkling a few toasted oats, drizzling a bit of honey, and adding a few reserved berries. Chill for an hour.

Here’s to Robbie Burns and Zoom friendships.

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