When is Burns Night and what should I cook for supper?

Pip Sloan
When celebrating the life of Scottish bard Robert Burns, haggis needn't be the only food given the limelight - David Loftus

Burns Night, often an extravagant affair involving bagpipes, lashings of whisky, and a toast to the haggis, traditionally takes place around the birthday of the great Scottish poet, Robert Burns.

This year, participants will raise a dram on January 25 and seek to serve a supper with all the pomp of the very first Burns Night in 1801, when friends of Rabbie came together to commemorate his death a few years earlier. 

The undisputed highlight of the evening is, of course, the emphatic rendition of Burns's 'To a Haggis'. During the poem the haggis is theatrically split open ('his knife see rustic labour dight'), with care being taken to ensure a good amount of its gory innards are exposed (make sure to make an incision in the haggis before the address – your guests may not thank you when you go in to slit your haggis and it pops under the pressure, showering them in bits of scalding meat). 

After the address, the feast of haggis, neeps and tatties, cock-a-leekie soup and cranachan or clootie dumpling can finally be enjoyed, before a long night of drinking, dancing and entertainment to celebrate the life of Scotland's favourite Scot (he even beat William 'Braveheart' Wallace in a Scottish television poll).

For our Burns Night feast, we have looked beyond turnips and potatoes for a modern menu with Scottish significance. Featured below, our favourite recipes will take you and your guests through from dawn to dusk...

Scotch pancakes with rhubarb compote

Credit: Lisa Linder

Start the day on a celebratory note with Flora Sheddon's Scotch pancakes with a bright pink rhubarb compote. 

MAKES

roughly 15 pancakes

INGREDIENTS

For the rhubarb compote

  • 5 sticks of rhubarb, sliced into 2cm chunks
  • 50g honey
  • Zest of ½ orange and 50ml juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla

For the pancakes

  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 40g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 150ml milk
  • 1 large egg
  • Butter, for cooking

To serve

  • Yogurt of your choice
  • Drizzle of honey

METHOD

  1. Place all the compote ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil and cook until the rhubarb has softened (roughly five to seven minutes). Do not over cook it as the lovely pink willwith fade. Set aside but keep warm.
  2. For the pancakes, place all the ingredients, apart from the butter, in a bowl and whisk together until the batter is smooth.
  3. Heat a little butter in a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and use a piece of kitchen roll to spread it over the whole pan. Spoon in two tablespoons of batter (or more if you want itthem larger), making it as round as possible. You don’t need to spread it out, it will settle naturally. Cook for a few minutes or until bubbles start to form on the surface of the pancake. Flip it over and cook for a further few minutes.
  4. Transfer to a warm plate and cover with a clean tea towel while you repeat with the rest of the  batter.
  5. Serve with the warm compote, a good dollop of yogurt and drizzle of honey. The compote can be kept in a sterilised jar in the fridge for up to a week.

Rose Prince's haggis sausage rolls

Credit:  Andrew Crowley

It wouldn't be Burns Night without a haggis to address – and Rose Prince has a twist that may convert skeptics (though traditionalists may prove harder to convince). 

MAKES

Canapés for 12

INGREDIENTS

  • 250g plain white flour
  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 100ml cold water
  • 2 tbsp whisky
  • 500g haggis, or 2 Macsween game haggis
  • 1 egg, beaten with a pinch of salt

METHOD

  1. To make the pastry, put the butter between two sheets of greaseproof paper and tap hard with a rolling pin to soften. Put all the flour in a heap on the work surface and add the butter breaking it up into thumbnail sized pieces. Add the water and whisky, then form into a dryish dough; wrap the piece of dough in greaseproof paper and put in the fridge for 15 minutes.
  2. Next, roll the pastry into a rectangle, about 20cm x 40cm. Fold it into three, like a letter, tap it with a rolling pin, turn it 180 degrees, then roll out again to 20cm x 40cm. Repeat the process, fold, tap with the rolling pin, wrap and refrigerate again for 30 minutes. The pastry should by now have absorbed the dry and floury bits.
  3. Third stage: repeat the rolling, folding and tapping one last time and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using the pastry.Preheat the oven to 220C/Gas 7.
  4. Remove the haggis from the casing and lightly mash it to loosen the texture. Roll the pastry on a floured worktop to make one large square, 30cm x 30cm and ½ cm thickness (you will probably have too much pastry but it freezes well.) Cut the pastry square in half to make 2 rectangles.
  5. Spoon half of the haggis down the length of each rectangle, positioned along the edge. Snip the edge of the opposite edge of pastry. Brush the still exposed pastry with egg wash and roll up the pastry so the haggis is snug inside it. Brush the whole roll with egg wash and repeat with the other side.
  6. Place each roll on the baking sheet. Bake for 15-25 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven, slice and serve warm.

Tom Kitchin's Scotch broth

Credit: David Loftus

SERVES 

Six

INGREDIENTS

  • 100g pearl barley
  • 75g dried split peas
  • 1 x 1kg piece of mutton shoulder, flank or neck (bone in)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large leek, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • ¼ small Savoy cabbage, shredded
  • 1 medium swede, diced
  • 2 celery sticks, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley

MEDIUM

  1. Soak the pearl barley and the split peas in separate bowls of cold water for a minimum of 3 hours, preferably overnight. Drain and rinse well.
  2. Trim excess fat from the piece of mutton. Put the mutton and pearl barley in a pot with 2 litres cold water and slowly bring to a simmer. Add the salt.
  3. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes, occasionally skimming off any fat or residue that floats to the surface. Add the vegetables, garlic and split peas and continue to simmer gently for up to an hour until the mutton is thoroughly cooked.
  4. Add a little water if the broth is looking too dry. Remove the mutton from the pot and separate the meat from the bone. Tear the meat into shreds and return to the pot. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Serve hot, sprinkled with parsley.

Pheasant and gammon pie

Credit: Steve Painter

Celebrate the game season with this hearty pie by Miranda Evans, perfect after a brisk walk in the highlands. 

SERVES

Four

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 leek, split lengthways, rinsed and thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 600g boneless pheasant, diced
  • Handful of fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 tsp soft brown sugar
  • Handful of roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 20g plain flour
  • 100ml white wine
  • 150ml white or brown chicken stock 
  • 150ml double cream
  • 200-300g cooked gammon, bacon or ham, diced
  • Mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables, to serve

For the pastry

  • 200g plain flour, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 100g butter, at room temperature, plus a little extra for greasing
  • 1-2 tsp finely chopped fresh tarragon (optional)
  • 1 egg, beaten

METHOD

  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan/skillet and add the onion, leek and garlic. Gently sauté until soft and translucent.
  2. Add the pheasant and cook for four to five minutes over a medium heat, until browned.
  3. Add the cranberries, sugar and parsley, season, and stir well to mix. Sprinkle the flour over the top and wait for it to take on colour, then stir it in. 
  4. Pour the white wine and stock into the pan, increase the heat and bring the mixture to the boil.  Add the cream, bring back to boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add the gammon and cook for 15 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
  6. To make the pastry, put the flour in a mixing bowl and rub in the butter using your fingertips. Add the tarragon, if using, and a pinch of salt, then three to four tablespoons of cold water, a tablespoon at a time. Use your hands to bring the dough together into a ball.
  7. Lightly dust a work surface with flour. Roll out the dough to a size sufficient to generously line a deep, 25-30cm pie dish. Use your finger to run butter around the top two-centimetre outside edge of the pie dish. If you have a pie funnel, put this in the centre of the dish. (This enables the steam to escape and thus keeps the filling thick and the pastry crisp.)
  8. Pour the filling mixture into the pie dish. Place the pastry on top of the filling. Use a sharp knife to cut a small cross in the centre of the pastry lid (directly on top of the pie funnel, if using). Trim the edges or let them overhang, as preferred, and press around the edge to seal it to the sides of the dish.
  9. Using a pastry brush, glaze the top of the pie with the beaten egg. Transfer the dish to a baking sheet to catch any escaping filling and bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. Serve hot with mashed potatoes and steamed green beans or broccoli.

Recipe from The Modern Meat Kitchen by Miranda Ballard (RPS, £16.99), available from Telegraph Books

Gizzi Erskine's beef and potato stew

Credit: Issy Croker

Gizzi Erskine uses ox cheek, oxtail or featherblade because they cook into juicy, falling-apart meat and a delicious mouth-sticking braise.

SERVES

Four

INGREDIENTS

  • Olive or rapeseed oil or ghee, for frying
  • 2 ox cheeks (roughly 900g), each cut into 6 pieces
  • 10 small onions or shallots, peeled but left whole
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • A few sprigs of thyme
  • 2 carrots, halved lengthways and cut into 6cm pieces
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 500ml fresh beef stock
  • 1 leek, cut into 4 long sections
  • 400g potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • A handful of parsley, chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

METHOD

  1. Heat a frying pan and put in one tablespoon of your chosen fat. Season the ox cheek pieces well with salt and pepper and brown them in batches. Remove them from the pan once nicely caramelised and set aside.
  2. In a heavy-based casserole, heat another couple of tablespoons of fat and throw in the onions and the bay leaf, rosemary and thyme. Allow to cook for five minutes over a higher heat than normal, until the onions start to soften and caramelise a little at the edges. Next add the carrots and cook for a couple more minutes, stirring regularly.
  3. Stir in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the stock and the leeks, followed by the ox cheeks and their residual juices. If necessary top up the casserole with water so that everything is just covered with liquid. Bring to the boil, then simmer and cover.
  4. Cook gently for two-and-a-half hours. Add the potatoes, stir gently, replace the lid and cook for a further 40 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through and the meat gives way. Check the seasoning and stir in the parsley.
  5. Turn off the heat and leave the stew to rest with the lid on for 10 minutes before serving with crusty bread and butter – or double up on potatoes and serve with creamy mash.

Recipes taken from Slow by Gizzi Erskine (HQ, £25)

Pear, honey and whisky cranachan 

Credit: Lisa Linder

A classic cranachan is a delicious mix of cream, raspberries, toasted oats and a splash of whisky. Here Flora Shedden gives the dessert a seasonal twist by swapping the raspberries for silky pears simmered in whisky and honey. 

SERVES

Four to six

INGREDIENTS

For the pears

  • 4 whole pears
  • 100ml whisky
  • 100g runny honey
  • 3-4 strips orange zest
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste

For the crème legere

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 20g cornflour
  • 250ml whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 250ml double cream

To finish

  • 200g granola (I like a simple oat and honey)
  • 8 orange shortbread biscuits (see below or use shop-bought)

METHOD

  1. Peel, halve and core the pears and place in a deep saucepan with a lid. Add the rest of the poaching ingredients with 250ml water, cover and bring to the boil, then simmer for 15-20 minutes until soft (test the centres with a knife). Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool.
  2. With the lid off, turn the heat up under the poaching liquid to reduce by at least half, or until it thickens a little. Discard the zest. Leave to cool.
  3. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour together until smooth. In a pan, bring the milk to the boil with the vanilla. Pour this over the egg mixture, whisking until smooth. Pour back into the pan over a low heat. Whisk gently, constantly, until it thickens, for three to five minutes.
  4. Pour into a plastic tub and refrigerate for at least two hours until set, then whip the double cream until it holds soft peaks. Loosen the set custard with a spoon then add the cream and whisk together until smooth.
  5. To assemble, cut the cooled pears into long slices (roughly eighths). Divide the slices of one pear between your glasses or bowl. Spoon some of the whisky syrup on top. Sprinkle with a quarter of the granola and a few crushed biscuits. Divide a quarter of the crème legere between the glasses. Repeat three more times, leaving a little granola and shortbread to sprinkle on at the end. Chill until ready to serve.

Are you celebrating Burns Night with a traditional – or not so traditional – Scottish meal?  Tell us what you're cooking and how you're planning to celebrate in the comment section below.