Food Articles


Menu for a Burns Night Supper

January 25, 2013

January 25 is the birthday of Robert Burns, the great national poet of Scotland, who gave us, among other immortal works, "Auld Lang Syne," "A Red, Red Rose," and "Comin' Through the Rye," the poem that inspired Holden Caulfield of The Catcher in the Rye. The traditional way to observe the Scottish Bard's birthday is with a Burns Night supper, a wonderfully booze- and poetry-soaked affair that follows a fairly ritualized run of show. If you've ever attended a Burns Night Supper yourself, you know that half of the fun is in trotting out your best Scottish accent while reading Burns poems and getting steadily more and more soused on good whiskey. The other highlight of a Burns Night Supper is the trotting out of the haggis, the event's customary centerpiece. What can be said about haggis that was not first and best said by Robert Burns himself, in the "Address to a Haggis" that must be recited as the dish makes its way out of the kitchen? Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o' the pudding-race! Haggis isn't something for which we have a recipe in the Epicurious database, but if you can find yourself a sheep heart, lungs, and liver, then do feel free to season them, encase them in sheep stomach, and set them boiling in a pot. The sale of haggis is actually banned in the U.S. (the lungs of a sheep are considered "inedible items" by our government agencies, but apparently chicken nuggets are A-OK...), which poses a bit of a challenge for American Burns Night celebrants who don't know anyone willing to smuggle a canned haggis out of the U.K., where it's widely sold in supermarkets. One alternative, and we admit it's a sorry one, is to serve a savory lamb sausage as part of your Burns Supper menu. You may not have thought to do it lately, but making your own sausage is far from impossible for a cook with a meat grinder, casings, and some of what Burns might have called the "noble enterprise" of John Barleycorn. The site also has a recipe for Bagless Haggis, which is doable for anyone who lives near a well-stocked butcher. Our American Burns Night Supper menu suggests lamb sausage as well as roasted venison, since at most such suppers the haggis is considered more honored guest than true main course. Happy Burns Night to all, and gie us a haggis! Image: Getty

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