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
A Simnel cake is a traditional fruit cake baked without raising agent and decorated with marzipan, that is served for Easter around England. I had never had one- let alone baked one- but the prospect sounded good enough to try.
- 175g butter
- 175g caster sugar
- 3 eggs
- 225g plain flour
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 100g dates (chopped)
- 425g mixed dried fruit (with or without peel)
- finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- 450g marzipan
What to do:
Grease and line a 7″/18cm round cake tin. Cream butter and sugar until pale, beat in the eggs. Add the flour, cinnamon and lemon zest and fold in. Add the fruits and fold in, until the ingredients are well combined. Spoon half of the mixture into the cake tin.
Roll out half of the marzipan into a circle just smaller than the diameter of the cake tin (about 6.5″/17cm). Put this marzipan on top of the cake mixture. Spoon the rest of the mixture on top, and level the surface.
Bake at 150C for about 2.5 hours, until brown and firm to the touch. Cool in the tin and then turn out. Roll out the rest of the marzipan a cut out another circle, just bigger than the diameter of the cake. Spread a little warmed apricot jam over the top of the cake and stick the circle of marzipan on top.
My cake for Easter 2015
Using the marzipan trimmings, make 11 small balls. Stick these on around the edge of the marzipan, using a dab of warmed apricot jam as ‘glue’. Just before serving add chocolate eggs and Easter chicks on the top of the cake!
We made a Simnel cake during a session of the Healthy Cooking Club last week and it was decorated and instantly devoured by the crew! Here they are – with me in the chef hat!
A nation who enjoys such a plain vegetable as the deservedly underrated swede
truly must have a sense of humour! At least that was my view, coming from a country where no-one has had the incongruous fantasy to grace their table with”rutabaga” since the war ended! But here, swede, or “nips” as the scots call it affectionately, is served as a distinguished companion to the prestigious Haggis. This national dish is presented during Burns night on every 25th of January or at any other time the scots designate as Burns celebration night…
We happen to love Haggis in this household and I have found a quick way to deal with swede without loosing a finger. Because that is the other point about swede : it is hard and usually big enough to look quite scary when approached with even your biggest knife! So I don’t even try. I peel it, then wrap it in foil and put in a hot oven for as long as it takes to get it soft. It is then easy to mash, add crème fraîche and cumin, salt and pepper and serve along the “tatties, as “nips and tatties” for the spicy and irresistible Haggis. I always offer a small glass of peaty whisky along, to be poured on each serving. Sally my dear Yorkshire neighbour taught me this and it is an absolute “must” now!
Those wonderful traditional characters are immortalised by Alphonse Daudet in his imaginative and poetic short stories “Letters from my Mill”. My favorite is the lovely “The stars” where a timid shepherd show off to his secret love the wonders of the Milky way in the beautiful provence night sky. It was my first encounter with astronomy and I could almost hear the music of the spheres…