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haggis

Burns Night is a celebration of Robbie Burns, a famous Scottish poet who was born on the 25 January in Ayr, Scotland.  Not only is it a very popular evening in Scotland it is also celebrated throughout the world.

In the far and distant days when I wanted to impress my now husband I was invited to a Burns Night supper by his very Scottish parents.  I had a little dread that haggis might be on the menu but stupidly thought there would be other options.  Burns night really is all about the haggis and there are no other options.  The haggis was piped in and then addressed before being stabbed with a dagger.  So I sat at a very long dining room table and in front of me was a large plate with just the haggis, the neeps and the tatties.  There was little escape.  I thought of weakly saying I didn’t like it – and decided that would not go down well, I could try and hide it under the vegetables but that wasn’t really an option.  The one and only option was to eat it, and I have never looked back – it is really delicious.  It has a spicy, meaty taste to it.  Haggis is made from the heart, lungs and liver of a sheep mixed with oats and spices and encased in a sheep’s stomach, not a description that has you reaching for your knife and fork.

Every year we have celebrated Burns Night with a haggis, neeps and tatties.  There have been a few disasters over the years, such as the time I absentmindly left the haggis unattended on the kitchen table and the dog ate the whole thing, metal clips and all (a trip to the vet and a nerve racking couple of days followed) and the year I had guests who I wanted to impress only to find when lifting the lid to the pan that the haggis had exploded while simmering, and the poor wee haggis had to be drained and served without an address or glimpse of the dagger.

The haggis is quite a filling dish so salmon pâté makes for a good starter.  It is incredibly easy to make and takes five minutes.  If could be used as a filling for Gougères or served with toasted wholemeal bread.  This recipe is not set in stone, you can put less smoked salmon in or more cream cheese.  Smoked salmon has quite a delicate flavour and can be easily overpowered.

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Smoked Salmon Pâté

Ingredients

150g/5 oz smoked salmon

100g/3 oz cream cheese

1 tablespoon double cream

½ lemon juice of

Salt and white pepper

Method

Put the smoked salmon and cream cheese into a food processor and blitz for a minute, keep blitzing and checking until you have the consistency you want.

Add a tablespoon of double cream, the juice of half a lemon and salt and pepper.  Taste.  If the pate is too thick loosen it with an extra spoon of double cream, or add more lemon juice.

Place in a bowl cover with Clingfilm and put in the fridge.  Serve with wholemeal toast and lemon quarters for those who like a little extra lemon.

Cranachan

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One of the traditions of the recipe of Cranachan is the adding of charms, very much like the Christmas pudding.  The charms are mixed into the cream and served in a large bowl.  Like Christmas pudding the enjoyment is finding one of the charms.  Each of them has its own significance:  a charm in the form of a ring signifies marriage;  a coin – wealth;  a wishbone – heart desire;  and a horseshoe – good luck.  The recipe below is really down to taste.  The honey is there to sweeten the cream and it needs to be used with some care because it can be quite a strong taste.  I have written 2 tablespoons of whisky but if you love whisky then put more in.

Ingredients

Serves 2 (generous portions)

½ pt/285ml double cream

1 heaped spoon of cream cheese

2 tbs whisky

1 rounded tablespoon honey

5 oz/150g raspberries

3 tbs oats.

Method

Whip the double cream and cream cheese until soft peaks then add 1 tablespoon of whisky and 1 rounded tablespoon of honey, fold into the cream.  At this point taste.  Adding another tablespoon of whisky or even more if desired.  Remember you can add but not take away!

Place a non-stick frying pan on medium heat and add the oats, turning and tossing them so that they don’t catch.  They are ready when they turn a golden brown, they can catch and burn very quickly so they need careful watching.  Once golden brown set aside to cool.

To make up the Cranachan put some of the raspberries into a bowl and cover with the whisky cream, sprinkle the toasted oats over this and repeat the process.  Topping off with a couple of raspberries.

Serve with Shortbread.

Shortbread

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Ingredients

115 g butter

55 g caster sugar

pinch of salt

120 g plain flour

50 g ground rice flour

Gas mark 2/150C/300F

Method

Mix butter and caster sugar together with a mixer.

Add both flours and salt.

Draw together to form a dough.

Turn out onto a floured worktop and roll out to about 1 cm thickness and cut into circles using a scone cutter or cut around a small saucer depending on what size you want.  Place onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper.  With a fork, make holes over the shortbread.  This will enable the caster sugar to cling to them once baked.

Put into the fridge and let rest for 15/30 minutes.

Bake in the oven for 1 hour checking for the last ten minutes that the shortbread doesn’t catch or brown too much.  They need to be a pale golden brown.  Smaller biscuits will take less time.

Carefully transfer to a wire rack being very careful, as while they are hot they are very fragile – they will brittle up as they cool.

Once cooled sprinkle with caster sugar.

Store in an airtight container.

Haggis

1 x 500g MacSween Haggis

There are three ways to cook the haggis:

Microwave – which means cutting the lining and put the contents into a bowl.  The downside of this method is that you cannot bring the haggis to the table and ceremonially cut it open which is really all part of the dish.  Cooks in 6 mins.

Oven – Wrap the haggis in foil and place in a pan with an inch of water and place in the oven, 180C/Gas 4/350F for 1 hour.  Remove the foil and serve.

Boil – This is the method I prefer.  I wrap the haggis in silver foil and tightly twist the ends and place into boiling water, the minute that it is placed in the water turn down and simmer for one hour, remove the foil and serve.

Neeps

500g/1 lb swede

28g/1 oz butter

salt and pepper

1 tablespoon sugar (optional)

Neeps are Swedes, peeled, diced and boiled in salted water for about 20/25 mins until soft. Drain and mash, adding a level spoon of sugar a little butter and some seasoning.  Serve.

Tatties

500g/1 lbs Maris Piper Potatoes

50g/2 oz Butter

A little milk

Salt and pepper

Boil required about of peeled potatoes in a pan with salted water. Boil for 20/25 mins until soft.  Drain and leave in the sieve for a minute or two for the steam to evaporate.  Using a potato ricer mash the potatoes.  Add to this a generous piece of butter and stir, the potatoes should still be quite firm – to loosen them add a little milk.  Season and serve.

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