The main festive date in our January food calendar is Burns Night on 25 January. It’s all about celebrating the life, songs and poetry of the Scottish poet, Robert Burns who was born on that date in 1759. Everyone knows that the Burns Supper consists of traditional haggis, accompanied by tatties (mashed potato) and neeps (mashed swede or turnip), washed down with whisky. The Haggis is carried in with great ceremony, accompanied by a piper, playing the bagpipes.
Then there is the ‘Address to a Haggis’ as the haggis is sliced open. Before the meal, the Selkirk Grace is said, which goes as follows:
“Some hae meat and canna eat, and some wad eat that want it, but we hae meat and we can eat, and sae the Lord be thankit.”
During the evening, a tribute to Burns, ‘The Immortal Memory’ is performed followed by readings of his poetry, such as ‘My heart’s in the Highlands’, ‘To a Mouse’, ‘Tam o’Shanter’ and ‘A Red, Red Rose’. At the end of the meal, there is the ‘Toast to the Lassies’, followed by a rendition of the most famous of songs by Robert Burns, ‘Auld Lang Syne’, with the famous crossing of hands at the line: “And there’s a hand, my trusty fere!”
But after the sumptuous main course of haggis, you will be wondering what is served up as dessert or pudding? The Scottish dessert we all know well is Cranachan, a smooth mixture of whisky, cream, honey and toasted oats with raspberries. But my friend, Fiona who is an amazing Scottish cook, came up with her family’s dessert for Burns night, a traditional Scottish tart which she makes every year:
Prune and Whisky Tart
8 inch (21cm) flan tin
8oz (225g) sweet shortcrust pastry
8oz (225g) dried prunes (pitted)
4floz (100ml) double cream
3oz (75g) caster sugar
2oz (50g) ground almonds
2 fl oz (50ml) malt whisky
Zest of one orange finely grated
1oz (25g) butter
Line the flan tin with pastry, prick and leave in fridge to rest for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200C (Fan 180C), Mark 6. Whisk the cream, eggs, sugar, almonds and zest of orange in a large bowl. Melt the butter and add to the egg mixture and whisk again. Arrange the prunes on the bottom of the flan and pour the egg mixture over. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes. When cooked, drizzle the whisky over the top and serve warm.
This recipe sounds quite decadent but I assure you it’s delicious. By the way, Fiona always makes her own haggis too but that’s for another time!
In 2021, the date falls on a Monday so when that happens, festivities are often held on the previous weekend. Celebrations will be very different this year with no gatherings of family and friends because of coronavirus lockdown restrictions. However, there’s a Burns Big Night In taking place which is a digital celebration on Saturday 23 January at 7pm, from the Ayrshire cottage where the bard was born. The online event, hosted by the National Trust for Scotland, aims to encourage people across the country, and the rest of the world, to enjoy music, songs, poems and whisky as part of the annual festivities. It is hoped the online event funds raised by the broadcast will help to ensure the National Trust for Scotland properties, including Burns Cottage in Alloway, are safeguarded for future generations.
Let’s stay safe at home and celebrate Burns Night by raising a toast to this famous Scottish bard and maybe try out Fiona’s recipe. Slainte Mhath! Happy Burns Night!
Read more about Grandma Abson’s life, her passion for baking and recipes on www.grandmaabson.com and head over to Instagram @potsaway to check out how Meryl and Patrick are cooking together again.