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How to Throw a Traditional Burns Night Supper
Robert Burns — or Rabbie Burns — is Scotland’s most famous poet. He lived and wrote in the 18th century, but he's still celebrated in Scotland and beyond on January 25th, the anniversary of his birth in 1759. The event is known as Burns Night.
Burns may be Scottish, but the celebrations are held everywhere his work is appreciated. The celebrations take place around a highly ceremonial Burn's Night Supper consisting of traditional Scottish fare. One important "guest" at the supper is always a haggis, which was immortalized in Burns' poem Address to a Haggis.
A formal Burns Night Supper begins with the host welcoming everyone and saying the Selkirk Grace:
"Some hae meat and cannot eat.
Some cannot eat that want it:
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit."
The legendary Parade of the Haggis follows. Guests stand and clap their hands, accompanied by the sound of the bagpipes, to welcome the haggis. The haggis and chef approach the top table, and the traditional Address to the Haggis is said before the knife is plunged into it and the eating begins:
"His knife, see rustic labour dicht
An' cut ye up wi' ready slight"
Speeches are made in praise of Rabbie Burns, as well as a traditional "Toast to the Lassies" — a male guest gives thanks to the women in his life. A woman stands and replies, hopefully thanking the speaker in an amusing way. She might also make a reference to Burns' women and the poet's life.
Then the feasting begins. Here are a few traditional Burns Night Supper recipes. And, of course, this is Scotland, so make sure you have plenty of whisky on hand for the traditional toast!
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Making a Haggis
Singing, dancing, toasts and ceremony may play a large part in a Burns Night supper, but everything centers around the food and the drink. Of course, haggis is the star of the show.
Making a haggis can be a bit daunting because it uses sheep's offal — the animal's lungs, hearts, and liver or both. The offal is minced and cooked with suet, oatmeal, and seasoning; then it's encased in the sheep's stomach. Once stitched up, the stuffed stomach is boiled for up to three hours.
Many people just buy their haggis these days but choose yours carefully if you do this. There is some excellent haggis on the market, so make sure the butcher or seller you choose is reputable.
Haggis is typically served with these traditional side dishes.
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Puddings are traditional as the savory part of the meal. Cock-a-leekie soup is a peasant side dish with several regional variations, some dating back as far as the 16th century.
Recipe: Cock-a-Leekie RecipeContinue to 5 of 6 below.
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Tipsy Laird Trifle
This Scottish trifle dessert is essentially the same as an English trifle, the pudding that has graced British tables for centuries. But it uses whisky not sherry, and Scottish raspberries.
Recipe: Tipsy Laird Trifle
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Scottish cranachan also features delicious raspberries, as well as Scottish oatmeal and cream.
Recipe: Scottish Cranachan