Robert Burns birthday on the 25th of January brings a night of celebrations across the country (and further afield) in memory of the great poet. It’s a brilliant night of food, drink, verse and good company but it can be a bit daunting if you’ve never planned your own before. So here’s the Girl Versus Food guide to hosting a Burn’s Night at home.
It goes without saying that your guests will be expecting haggis, neeps and tatties! Getting good quality haggis is important; I’d suggest ordering one from your local butcher. For something a bit different, Servus Venison Haggis is very good.
Will you be serving your haggis traditional style with champit tatties and bashed ‘neeps? Or will you look to incorporate the national dish into your menu in another way? I’ve previously created these Haggis Scotch Eggs and will be posting a recipe for Haggis Beef Wellington later in the week.
Last year for my Burns Supper, I went classic with a haggis main course and designed the rest of the menu using as much fantastic Scottish produce as possible. The full menu was as follows;
Lobster Tail with truffle
A Plate of Game – game terrine, venison tartar served with a quails egg, game pate
Le Trou Normand (palate cleanser):
Edinburgh Raspberry Gin Sorbet
Haggis wi’ bashit neeps an’ champit tatties
Heather Honey and Whisky Mousse
It’s traditional to serve the haggis with whisky. With it being our national drink there’s plenty of options to choose from and each has its own unique characteristics. Food and drink writer Fiona Beckett has an article here https://www.matchingfoodandwine.com/news/pairings/which-whisky-pairs-best-with-haggis/ about which whiskies pair best with haggis, but a Talisker 10 year old would be a safe bet.
Not a big whisky fan? How about a lovely Scottish gin instead? Just like whisky, each gin is very different depending on the botanicals used. A few of my favourites are Rock Rose, The Botanist and Strathearn. Rock Rose have distilled this beautiful limited edition Lassies Toast Gin for Burns this year.
The Toasts and Poems
It’s great to get all your guests involved in the fun. You might want to ask them to pick out a favourite piece by Burns in advance that they would be happy to give a rendition of on the night (since nobody likes to be put on the spot). You could have guests reading their verses between courses or after the meal.
The Selkirk Grace is said at the beginning of the meal. This is a short and easy verse so would be ideal for someone who is nervous about reading a poem aloud.
When the haggis is brought to the table (ideally accompanied by bagpipe music) Address to The Haggis is read and the cooked haggis is cut open.
After the meal, there are three pieces performed which have been written especially for the evening by the hosts or another appointed person.
- The Immortal Memory is a tribute to Robert Burns where the speaker picks out interesting aspects of The Bards life or works. This is the most serious of the speeches.
- The Toast To The Lassies is a light-hearted performance and an opportunity to tease the female guests in a good natured way. It should always end with a genuine thanks to the fairer sex and a heartfelt toast.
- It’s only fair that the girls get a chance to respond and so follows The Reply to The Toast To The Lassies.
The Visit Scotland page has some great short videos with advice on writing your toasts here https://www.visitscotland.com/about/famous-scots/robert-burns/burns-night/
At the end of the night, it’s time to get your guests together, join hands and sing along to Auld Lang Syne.
Remember, it’s your night so if there are any sections you want to skip or extras you want to add in then go ahead and tailor the evening to you and your guests.
If you can talk your guests into wearing tartan then all the better… kilts, tartan trews and dresses will really set Burns mood.
A tartan themed table and place cards will look beautiful too! As an added touch, you might want to think about a wee favour on your guests’ place settings. Scottish tablet or an alcohol miniature perhaps?
Too Much Hassle?
If this all seems like a bother or hosting isn’t your thing, get yourself along to an organised Burns Supper in your area. And nobody will ask you to do the dishes at the end of the night! Here’s a couple of options in Edinburgh and Glasgow.