What is on your menu for Burn’s Night?
‘There is no such uncertainty as a sure thing.’ Robert Burns.
This Burns quote feels quite topical at this time of Brexit uncertainty and highlights the moveable feast nature of the current climate where even our most stable of institutions appears up in the air. What better time, then, to celebrate Burn’s night by the home fires, a momentary distraction and warming by the hearth of body and spirit? Or better still, you may be lucky enough to have been invited out to a literary Burns Night feast or ceilidh, or even crazy enough to be hosting one yourself. Or, perhaps you may be paying a quieter homage at home a day later as I am with a vegetarian menu after a busy day at Whitstable Farmers Market with Whitstable Larder.
Following a meeting at Whitstable Umbrella Community Café yesterday, I went to hunt down a haggis in the town. I knew that this was a foolhardy thing to do as haggis is not easy to come by at the best of times, and vegetarian haggis is particularly shy. I did, however, take my pride in my hands and ask in Jim’s Butchers in Whitstable if they had any vegetarian offerings hiding behind the counter. The answer was a friendly no but that Jim was out hunting right now and would be in later, haggis aplenty, with possibly some vegetarian ones in his scoop. I thought I would try my luck at Long’s butchers next, but was directed towards a major supermarket on the hill where apparently one was reliably spotted this morning.
I shall collect mine later, and will definitely resist the supermarket vegetables in favour of locally grown neeps and tatties. I shall buy Organic Swede from Whitstable Farmers Market this Saturday, and already have my sack of Wilja Potatoes at home from Mallard’s Farm Shop, Waterham Lane, highly recommended and fantastic value. If I am in the mood, I will add to the menu a cock-a-leaky soup and Cranachan for pudding or improvisations on those themes depending on what is in the larder.
I shall boil the haggis as we used to do at home on the Aga where us kids would wait impatiently until it was released in a cloud of steam from the pot to some general brouhaha. I shall be serving with boiled and mashed neeps’ and tatties with plenty of butter, sea salt and black pepper. Haggis is effectively a beautifully simple ready meal, which you can spice up by slashing ceremoniously and pouring in a wee dram or two of whisky while reading from Robert Burn’s ‘Address to a Haggis’. This works best with a meaty haggis contained in a sheep’s stomach, all swollen and bloated from cooking, with its hot and wholesome filling of seasoned offal and oatmeal just waiting to be released.
I have rather belatedly joined dry January so will definitely (try to) avoid the temptation of buying a bottle of scotch to toast the haggis with (though a miniature does sound tempting). I think that this is the first year that the local ceilidh organised by some friends is not happening, so a good excuse to hibernate a bit longer although the snowdrops are out in our garden and despite the cold, there is a change in the air...
Our Vegetarian Haggis & Neep’s Burn’s Night Menu for this weekend:
1 vegetarian haggis – to be hunted down
1 swede preferably locally grown – we use Ripple Farm Organics
Double the amount of potatoes to swede – we use Mallards Farm Wilja Potatoes
Robert Burn’s ‘Address to a Haggis’ copy of or memorise
A log fire or candles
1 nip of whiskey per person (minimally/ optional)
A ceilidh (optional) post haggis