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Every year on the 25th of January, Scots all around the world celebrate the life and works of the great Robert Burns by hosting Burns suppers in schools, clubs and with groups of friends.
With the country in lockdown, and most celebrations happening home, this year’s Burns suppers will be very different, so we’ve put together a few ideas for how you can celebrate Burns’ birthday safely at home, with your own scaled-down Burns supper to celebrate the great man’s life and works.
To get started
A Burns supper has to pack a punch in as simple and delicious a way as possible – if only to cut down on the dishes afterwards.
If you fancy a lighter soup, try Boyndie Broth – a simple oatmeal and vegetable soup – or if you just can’t get enough haggis, Foodie Quine’s haggis, neeps and tatties soup would be a good way to start.
As much as we’d love to insist that the and are the center of any proper Burns supper – that honor goes to Scotland’s national dish, the humble haggis, served with neeps and tatties. At the Burns supper it is treated with much pomp and ceremony, and the reverence to which it is held is almost ritualistic. Our Caledonian Kitchen Haggis is available in 2lb, 4lb presentation and canned
If you’re having a go at Veganuary this year, or are just looking for a substitute for the meat-heavy traditional haggis, then look no further than our 2lb pictured above.
Traditionally, the haggis is piped into the supper club’s top table, where the Chairman will read Burns’ ‘Address to a Haggis’ and cuts it open. At this point guests toast the haggis with a dram of Scottish whisky, and it is then served.
Unless you live with someone who can play the pipes (you lucky thing) then you can add some drama to your evening at home by ceremonially delivering the haggis to your top (or kitchen) table to Scotland the Brave – and you might have to rely on whatever bottle of whisky you have left over from Christmas to get you through the toast.
And don’t forget to recite the Selkirk Grace, also known as Burn’s Grace at Kircudbright, before you eat.
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.
Sweet Things and Scottish Whisky
While it’s typical of most Burns suppers that the whisky is opened in order to toast the haggis – however, this is by no means the only time that Scotland’s ‘Water of Life’ makes an appearance at the supper table.
Whisky-laden is a traditional Scottish dessert of toasted oats, raspberries, cream, and whisky layered in tall glasses, often chosen to end the Burns supper feast. Due to the layered nature of this delicious dessert, diners can construct their own cranachans at the dinner table choosing their own balance of ingredients.
Alternatively you could try making a traditional steamed pudding that gets its name from the cloth that it is cooked in, with is delicious with custard.
And if you still haven’t had enough haggis, back to Foodie Quine for a chocolate haggis (aka shortbread and whisky fridge cake).
A Burns supper wouldn’t be complete without some traditional entertainment and this year should be no different. Your meal should be followed by renditions of Burns’ works- such as ‘A Red, Red Rose’, fan favorite ‘Tam o’ Shanter’, or a fully throated rendition of ‘Auld Lang Syne’. If you don’t want to read them yourself, you’ll find recordings of more than 700 of Burns’ works by some of Scotland’s best-loved actors on the BBC website.
Another tradition is the Toast to the Lassies, and the Reply from the Lassies – where a male guest will stand up and deliver a humorous and often scathing toast to the women in the room – and a female guest will stand up and reply in turn.
We think this traditional proto-‘roast’ is a great feature and no pandemic should get in the way of it – but do try to remember that you’re stuck in the house with the people that you are so fondly berating, so don’t go too far!
If you can’t find a collection of Burns’ poetry in the house (shame on you!) or you don’t fancy the prospect of belting out ‘Ae Fond Kiss’ in front of your kids, then BBC Scotland have got you covered with a special Burns Night celebration with Eddie Reader, Karen Matheson and Robyn Stapleton accompanied by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra from 8pm on 25th January.
Or you could join the Big Burns Supper hosted by Janie Godley online from 7pm on Facebook or Youtube, featuring a host of artists including KT Tunstall, Donovan, the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, Dougie Maclean and the fabolous Col Mustard & The Dijon 5.