Tonight is Burn’s Night, in which the Scots eat Haggis and drink whiskies, recite Burn’s poetry to the sound of bag pipes and generally have a song and a dance around one of the weirdest food stuff possible!
I happen to really enjoy Haggis and I share with my Franco-English brood a very candid love for the full flavours of this ancient and mythical dish. So we usually share at least one Haggis with friends during the months of January or February. The Haggis itself is best bought from your butcher and if you follow the instructions you should be set ! What I suggest here is what to do the next day with the left-overs – I always buy generously and so the left-over is quite plentiful. You could always just purchase a small haggis, cook it for the time required and use it in this recipe. I reckon this starter is an easy and user-friendly introduction to the real thing…
Ingredients for 6 tartlets:
A sausage shaped haggis ! Perfect
- 500g of Haggis (cooked and cooled)
- one egg, beaten
- Fine oatmeal or brown flour
- Duck eggs, 6
- Maldon salt
- Little glass of whisky
Poach the duck eggs directly in boiling water (with a spoonful of vinegar added) or in small darioles moulds stood in one inch of boiling water. Count 3 to 4 minutes after boiling point to get soft boiled eggs. Rinse under cool water, peel and reserve.
Put one spoonful of rapeseed oil in a skillet and heat up.
With oiled hands, shape 100g of haggis in round tartlet shape or flat pat tie and brush both sides in the beaten egg. Add a bit of water with your fingers if this helps. Sprinkle the fine oatmeal over and then fry both sides in oil. Repeat for 6 rounds.
Drain the excess oil on some kitchen towel then serve the Haggis base with one poached egg on top and sprinkle some salt over.
Serve with a sprinkle of whisky on the haggis base.
Each guest will cut the egg : the soft yolk mingling with the spicy haggis meat and the alcool gives a lovely and very unusual mouthful. Some bag-pipe music might always be enjoyable at that point but if you want to really get the full experience of Burn’s Night you can always try reciting the traditional address or heading to a Scottish pub during the next three or four weeks and seeing how it is done properly!
In any case, this is a night for loud and rowdy fun and for eating things you never thought you would love! Never miss an opportunity to party, is my honest advice for this new year. And may the memory last long after Burn’s Night is over…
I took no picture of the starter sadly but here is a picture of the whole Haggis, ready to be cut up, the night before…
A robust and fragrant Haggis
Quinces are the star fruit of winter and make it up in taste subtlety and exotic look for the lack of variety available at this time of year. So enjoy them while you can!
A very precious and ancient fruit
Duck legs 4 (or one for each guest)
Water 1 pint
Quinces 2 (peeled and quartered)
Ginger root (1 bitesize)
Clear honey 2 Tbsp
Salt and black pepper
Fresh bunch of coriander
Preheat the oven to 230˚. Rub the duck legs with some of the olive oil, season with salt and pepper then place on a rack. Roast in the oven for about 30 min until the skin is crisp and raised in places.
Pour a pint of water and the juice of one lemon into a pan. Bring to a boil, add the quince quarters and simmer until tender. I left the skin on mine because their skin was thin and lovely but some variety have a thick skin that needs peeling.
Slice the quinces quarters and fry them in olive oil and butter until golden. Reserve.
Take the duck out of the oven and dip some of the fat out into the quinces pan – a couple of spoonfuls. Stir in the grated ginger, honey and cinnamon and fry gently on low heat. Add some more lemon juice. Pour some water to make this into a sauce and let it bubble a few seconds.
Arrange the legs and quinces into a dish and pour the sauce over it. Sprinkle a bit of coriander to serve.
This dish would make a tasty alternative to the traditional Christmas turkey, I reckon. I particularly love the way the quince slices melt in the mouth – one of the nicest ways to serve quinces, at any rate.
Original recipe by Ghillie Basan, a brilliant travel and cookery writer – and friend- who lives in the wilderness of Scotland but whose cooking is infused with middle eastern spices. Her books are a true inspiration for anyone who enjoys Mediterranean flavours and heritage.
This is for me the ultimate nursery food: a comforting dish, oozing butter and cream with the hidden treasure of a soft, nourishing yolk in the middle!
Choose duck eggs for a change, they are lovely at the moment. This couple of ducks were shot in the Wetland Centre in Barnes: A great place for ducks and birds of all feathers but get your eggs from elsewhere.
Tonight I am using Elizabeth David recipe found in “French country cooking”, first published in 1951. The result was as delicious as I recalled… The traditional recipe includes ham so I added that in for memories sake. For a bigger egg (and more yolk to dip the bread in!), I used large duck eggs. I fantasise one day of using one single goose egg to make one big “oeuf cocotte” in a large soufflé dish, for example. But usually, some Le creuset terracotta ramequins are better suited though and give each guest a lovely individual dish to delve into… Elizabeth David talks of “little fireproof china dishes”, but you can be creative and use any small pot so long as it goes into the oven.
Ingredients list: Quantities for one
1 duck egg per person
1 spoonful of butter
1 spoonful of cream
1 thick slice of cooked ham
Cut a rough circle of ham and put it at the bottom of the dish. Heat the oven to fairly hot and put a blob of butter on top of the ham. Leave the dish in the oven until the butter has melted. Then crack an egg in each dish and cover with a good spoonful of cream. Leave to cook for 5 to 8 min. or until the white is set and the yolk still runny. Do not overcook or the dish is ruined! Simple but crucial.
Serve hot with a pinch of chopped tarragon and some cracked pepper. Some buttered olive bread from Chez Paul tonight made a welcome contribution to help us enjoy the hidden treasure inside the cream. I used to like my oeuf cocotte with plain soldiers but this is a matter of taste. This is regressive, comforting food if there was any – so no rules but family tradition must prevail!