Friday, January 27, 2023

A Burns Night Supper

Robert Burns, the poet born in Scotland in 1759, is probably best known for these verses:

O my Luve is like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Luve is like the melody
That’s sweetly played in tune.

So fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.
so it was appropriate that my friend Deb hosted a Burns Night Supper in place of the Valentine’s Day tea usually celebrated by our Betsy-Tacy group. Burns Night is celebrated on January 25th and marks the anniversary of the poet’s birth, one of the most famous and celebrated Scots. Many mark the occasion by going to a Burns supper.

The first Burns supper was held in July 1801 when some of Burns’ friends got together on the fifth anniversary of his death. They celebrated with a meal that included haggis and readings from Burns’ work. It became a tradition that continues to this day.

At our gathering, everyone wore plaid and brought Scottish-themed food. A bagpipes recording played in the adjacent room. I got The Art of Scottish American Cooking from the library and baked oatcakes (recipe below).
Mock Haggis and Potatoes
Our host, George, performed (with a very impressive accent) the famous Burns Night poem, Address to a Haggis, which begins:

Address to a Haggis
Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o' a grace
As lang's my arm.

It is because Burns wrote this poem rhapsodizing about haggis that the dish became associated with him. You do know what’s in haggis, right? It’s a pudding (more like what we would call a casserole) containing sheep's pluck (heart, liver, and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and cooked while traditionally encased in the animal's stomach, though now an artificial casing is often used instead. Deb took pity on us and made Mock Haggis, using ground lamb instead of the ickier ingredients and it was very tasty.

We toasted the haggis, and then enjoyed a hearty meal that included the Mock Haggis, the oat cakes, potatoes, fancy gingerbread with icing, at least three types of scones, tea cakes, tomato & cheese tarts (delicious even if not Scottish), curried chicken sandwiches (my favorite), cucumber sandwiches (a tradition at our gatherings), Millionaire’s shortbread and ordinary shortbread, and salad so we could pretend we cared about healthy eating. I assume there was whisky but it was a cold day and the tea was exactly what I wanted.
Mrs. MacLeod’s Oatcakes

1 ½ cups rolled oats
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup vegetable shortening
About 1/3 cup cold water

In a large bowl, combine oats, flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. With a pastry blender, cut in shortening until mixture is like fine crumbs. Add sufficient water, stirring, to make a stiff dough. Gather into a large ball. Place on a lightly floured surface. Divide into two parts. With a floured rolling pin, roll each part into a sheet and cut each into 16 2-inch squares. Transfer to lightly greased baking sheets. In a preheated 375-degree oven, bake for 15 minutes until lightly brown and firm. Remove to wire rack.

I could not find my rolling pin so flattened out the dough by hand and my oatcakes were not neat 2-inch squares; however, they were very tasty, especially hot out of the oven. I ate about five before remembering I was making them for a party!  I meant to ask Katrina from Pining for the West for an easy recipe but oatcakes turned out to be easy to make and tasty.  I have a lot of leftover oats so will certainly make them again.    

Katrina and her husband recently visited Robert Burns' birthplace and she posted some pictures of the cottage where he was born.

Someone asked me today if I had ever been on a haggis shoot. Clearly, she thought I was the type of clueless American who did not know the ingredients. I replied, “How does one shoot an intestine or is that the joke?” She answered, “Some people thing a haggis is a low-flying bird that looks like a pig, and others think a haggis is a sort of pig that looks like a low-flying bird. Mysterious creature.”


Deb said...

I finished the last oatcake yesterday. I could have eaten a hundred more - the were so delicious. Better than a digestive biscuit, but crisp, sweet and oat-y. I hope we can do it again next year!

Adrian said...

Nice to read a bit more about Burns night. Coincidentally, I've just been listening to 'Highlands' by Bob Dylan, which starts of with 'My hearts in the higlands.'

Katrina said...

What a delicious looking spread. We also had mock haggis as it was a vegetarian one which features pulses, oatmeal, barley, onion, a lot of pepper and various other bits and pieces. We aren't vegetarians! There's also a 'myth' that haggis have two legs shorter than the other two which helps them get up and down hills!
Thanks for the mention.

Katrina said...

I hope the link below to the Burns Museum works.

CLM said...

Katrina, "pulses" is a new word for me but even after googling, I can't decide if it is a bean or a seed. Do you make oatcakes? Is this recipe standard?

Adrian, you have probably never heard of the Beany Malone books but I seem to recall she sings, "My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here." I will have to check.

Deb, I will bring these again. I wonder when our next gathering will be.

Katrina said...

Pulses are dried lentils, peas and beans of all sorts.
I have never made oatcakes, but my Scottish teatime recipe book recipe is:
8oz fine (pinhead) oatmeal
half teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 tablespoons melted butter
pinch of salt
1/4 pint hot water
a little extra oatmeal for rolling.

So, quite different from your recipe as there's no sugar involved. I might give that one a go though. I love our oatcakes but we eat them spread with butter or with cheese.

Deb said...

Constance, don't Betsy and Tacy sing "My Heart's in the Highlands, My Heart is not here, My Heart's in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer" at graduation? And someone wittily amends the last line to "a-chasing my dear?" That's why I chose the title for the evite, but if it's a Beany reference, I shall be mortified.

CLM said...

You're right; I must be slipping!