The 25th of January is the night when the over-indulgence of the festive period is a distant memory and we’re all ready to celebrate again. It’s Burns Night. Once a tradition enjoyed mostly by us hailing from north of the border, now you’ll be surprised how far from our shores you’ll find these Scottish shenanigans.
Something that delights every Scot on Burns Night is a haggis virgin – and we’ll be equally as entertained if we convert these first-timers into lifelong haggis fans or if we get to watch them squirm with disgust. But I have to say, the latter is rare; anyone I’ve ever introduced to haggis finds it delicious (and to the ones who are too scared to try it, I say ‘Come on ya fearties!’).
Now, of course, haggis is undoubtedly on the menu on Burns Night, but it doesn’t have to take its usual form. From haggis lasagne to haggis stuffed beef olives, there’s so much that you can do with our national dish. Here’s a brilliant recipe from Michelin Starred Martin Wishart, one of Scotland’s best chefs (so it’s guaranteed to impress).
- 600g of haggis
- 2 eggs
- 150g flour
- 150g Panko breadcrumbs (available in Chinese supermarkets)
- 750ml vegetable oil
- Salt and pepper
- 150g orange marmalade
- 35ml whisky
Start by taking the haggis out of the bag – I like to get mine from the butcher with the natural casing; you can really taste the difference. Give the haggis a bit of a smoosh to loosen it and then roll into balls weighing about 25g each.
If you thought that bit was messy, you’ll love the next bit. On three separate plates, place the flour (which you should season well), the beaten eggs and the Panko breadcrumbs (these really are the business, they give anything they’re coating an unbeatable crunch).
Now start the pané production line and flour, egg and breadcrumb each ball. I suggest trying to do this with one hand, leaving a crumb-free hand for any little emergencies like a ringing phone, itchy nose or turning the tap on. If you manage to achieve this then you are a better cook than me – by the end of the process I felt I had become one with the bonbons.
Once you have breadcrumbed each ball and de-crumbed yourself, put a large pan on to the heat with the oil. The oil shouldn’t come more than half way up the pan in order to cook safely, and so we don’t burn the hoose doon (it’s Burns Night, the colloquialism is out of my control).
While the oil is heating up, you can get on with your marmalade. Get a little sauce pan and mix together the marmalade and whisky (I can’t lie, I didn’t measure out my whisky, but let’s just say it was a generous glug).
Once it’s all bubbly and mixed together, it’s ready to be popped in a small serving dish in the fridge.
Back to the oil. With a temperature probe, raise the oil to 160ºC (or you can just pop a few breadcrumbs into the oil until they begin to sizzle). When the oil is hot, pop the bonbons in for around 2 minutes or until golden brown. Drain off on some kitchen towel and you’re done.
You can serve these tasty treats with the tangy whisky marmalade and something leafy – I’m sure Martin would serve with an arty streak of marmalade and micro herbs, but I’m not that good. To be honest, they’d sit every bit as happily alongside some mashed neeps and tatties drizzled in whisky sauce, it’s entirely up to you.
A handy tip if you know people of a slightly greedier persuasion is to make bigger, chunky balls, about the size of a scotch egg. Fry them like you would the little ones but finish them off in the oven. No laddie or lassie will turn their nose up at these behemoth bonbons.
Big or small, this makes a brilliant starter any time of year but of course, perfect for something a little different on Burns Night.
Now, a must at any Burns celebration is you have to join in with the reading of some poetry. I know a lot of people are scared because of the old Scots pronunciation, but I wouldn’t be too worried, I once recited the entire lyrics of A Million Love Songs by Take That in an overly Scottish accent and nobody noticed it wasn’t Burns (which I think speaks more about the talents of Gary Barlow as opposed to being a slur against our National Bard). Here’s an easy one if you want to give it a bash – The Selkirk Grace – recite it before you all tuck into this tasty starter recipe.
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae let the Lord be thankit.
Enjoy your Burns Night! Have a dram for me,