Thursday, 19 January 2017

Burns Night 25th January 2017

Burn’s Night, a celebration of the immortal Rabbie Burns, Scotland's famous poet, it’s national Bard. Held since the fifth anniversary of his death this tradition continues today and not only amongst the Scottish. Over the years the ceremony enshrining the supper has become all the more elaborate, adding an enormous amount of fun to be had during the evening, particularly for those not versed in the traditional Scottish tongue.
I’ll attempt here to take you through the evening's formalities as I understand them, so you can carry out your own Burn’s supper in all it's gloriousness.
Piping in the guest
Of course for this you will need to have your guests gathered in the drawing room, when the time comes to move to the dining room; be at the ready. Whip out you bagpipes and furnish your guests with your finest Scottish air; alternatively you could play a CD at this point.
Host’s welcoming speech
Once all seated it is, at this point, polite to welcome all your guests and say a few nice words, do not worry, you do not need to be as poetic as Burns, you will speaking like him later on, or in fact now, it’s time to say grace. Or to be more precise, the Selkirk Grace, penned by the man himself.
Some hae meat an canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae let the Lord be thankit.

Of course you don’t have meat, you have the things left after you’ve taken the meat away but I suppose there is a need to keep the meter and the rhyme of a poem.
Finally you can eat, traditionally you would go for Scotch broth, potato soup, cullen skink or cock-a-leekie. My favourite would be cullen skink but have whichever you can get the best ingredients for.
The haggis
Here is the moment you’ve been waiting for; you get to play the bagpipes again. The haggis should be paraded into the room led by the piper to the table. Whereupon the host recites from memory (or reads) Burns’ Address to a Haggis, as follows:-

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 airm.

The full address is printed at the bottom of this article
(fa = fall, sonsie = jolly/cheerful)

(aboon = above)
(painch = paunch/stomach, thairm = intestine)
(wordy = worthy)
The toasts
During this address you will need to whip out a dagger whilst reciting “his knife see rustic Labour dicht” and thrust it into the haggis slicing end to end saying the line “An’ cut you up wi’ ready slicht”. At the end with the address safely delivered, all guests toast the haggis with a whisky and then sit down to the main affair; haggis, neeps and tatties.  
Depending on the company you keep this can be the funniest or the most dangerous part of the evening! It is usually consisting of two toasts:-

Address to the lassies
A short speech given by one of the male guests, giving thanks to the lassies for their work in preparing the meal, it also should cover the male speaker’s views on women in general, this should be amusing but not offensive; but it is here within the danger lies!
Reply to the ladies
A female guest replies, with her views on men, to any particular points raised by the male speaker. Again humour not offensive is the aim, I find that this is best served if there is some advanced collaboration between the speakers.
On closing of the evening it is customary to sing Burns’ most well known of songs Auld Lang Syne bringing our evening or ceremony and fun to an end.

I hope you join in this event by hosting your own Burns evening on the 25th. There is much fun to be had by following all the rigmarole and grandeur of Burns’ words that surround the humble haggis for the evening.

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 worthy o' a grace
As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,                    
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o need,
While thro your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An cut you up wi ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
The auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
'Bethankit' hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect scunner,
Looks down wi sneering, scornfu view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither'd rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll make it whissle;
An legs an arms, an heads will sned,
Like taps o thrissle.
Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer,
Gie her a Haggis

It's Marmalade time!!!


There is nothing I enjoy more than on a cold January day than spending time in my kitchen making glowing jars of bittersweet Seville orange marmalade.

The Seville orange comes from near the town of Seville in Spain and has only a limited season, from the beginning of January until the beginning of February, but they do freeze very well for up to 6 months.  Freezing will pre-soften the peel, reducing the required cooking time.

You really can’t beat the intense fresh flavour of homemade Seville marmalade and
if you have never tried making your own marmalade I strongly recommend you try my favourite recipe and impress all your family and friends.

Once you have made your marmalade it will keep for up to a year if stored in a cool dark cupboard. You will never want to buy pre-made marmalade again!!

1kg Washed Seville oranges
1 x Juice of a lemon
1kg Granulated sugar
500ml Water

Put the whole washed oranges and lemon juice in a large preserving pan (a large ordinary pan is ok if you don’t have a preserving pan) and cover with water. Sometimes I find it necessary to weight the oranges down with a heat-proof plate to keep them submerged. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer very gently for around 2 hours, or until the peel can be easily pierced with a fork.

Gently warm half the sugar in a very low oven on a baking tray. Drain off the cooking water from the oranges into a jug and tip the oranges into a bowl. Return the cooking liquid to the pan. Allow oranges to cool until they are easy to handle, then cut in half. Scoop out all the pips and pith and add to the reserved orange liquid in the pan. Bring to the boil for 6 minutes, then strain this liquid through a sieve into a bowl and press the pulp through with a wooden spoon - it is high in pectin so gives the marmalade a good set.

Pour half this liquid into a preserving pan. Cut the peel, with a sharp knife, into shreds according to your own preference Add half the peel to the liquid in the preserving pan with the warm sugar. Stir over a low heat until all the sugar has dissolved, for about 10 minutes, then bring to the boil and bubble rapidly for 15- 25 minutes until setting point is reached.

Take the pan off the heat and skim any froth from the surface. (To dissolve any excess scum, drop a small knob of butter onto the surface, and gently stir.) Leave the marmalade to stand in the pan for 20 minutes to cool a little and allow the peel to settle; then pot in sterilised jars, seal and label. Repeat from step 3 for the second batch, warming the remaining half of the sugar first.

You can also make a dark marmalade by adding an extra 250g muscovado sugar, but don’t be tempted to make more than 50% of the sugar muscovado, unless you like the ‘molasses’ flavour more than you do the Seville orange.

Another twist I like on traditional marmalade is to add 250g chopped crystallised ginger when you take the marmalade off the heat, this adds a lovely addition to the taste.  You can add the ginger alone or it is doubly delicious if added with the muscovado sugar.  

Homemade marmalade makes a lovely gift for family and friends.