Burns Night

A cardroon – pic taken at Culloden in November 2015

O tha, is e oidhche na h-Alba a th ’ann

Okay, so I used google translate so this could be wrong (heaven forbid) but apparently the above translates to Oh yes, it’s Scottish night. As an aside, I know the “Alba” part is correct as I accidentally signed up to the Visit Scotland weekly newsletter and had to google the word “Alba” which is the Scottish Gaelic name for Scotland. Plus there was those few months during 2020 when I faffed about with Scots Gaelic in Duolingo (I’ve since forgotten most words, but still remember the word for whisky…).

If you’re interested it all goes back to what was loosely known as the Kingdom of Alba in the first and second centuries. Of course, I could go on, but I’m sure you’re not particularly interested.

Anyways, it was Burns Night during the week (January 25) so when I was scouting around for a theme for this week’s date night dinner, I didn’t look much further than that.

While Burns Night is a celebration of the haggis (and the birthday of Robert – Rabbie – Burns), there’s much more to Scottish cuisine than haggis and deep-fried Mars Bars. Speaking of which, I have actually cooked haggis a couple of times for Grant. He’s Scottish- born, you see, and actually likes the stuff. He’s even been known to order it willingly off a menu.

The pics below are testimony to that. On the left is the haggis he ordered when we were at the Glenfiddich Distillery checking in on what they’d done with the money I’d invested in their product over the years (ahem). (As an aside, the ladies’ bathroom needed to be seen to be believed – it had this massive lounge area complete with a roaring open fire.) The pic on the right is the haggis he ordered at Boisdales in London on our recent trip.

Grant says that I haven’t given haggis a chance and I usually counter with some rude comments about how the national flower is a noxious weed, the national dish is offal encased in a sheep’s stomach, and the national drink was invented to chase away the taste of the national dish and to promote the enjoyment of the national instrument ie bagpipes.

Of course, I jest…mostly…I happen to love everything about Scotland…except haggis. But if I have haggis to thank for the invention of whisky (my theory, not a true story) well, how can I complain? Plus, there truly is nothing like the purple of a thistle and the sound of bagpipes played well.

As I was saying, I have hunted down and cooked haggis, the crafty wee buggers, before. Once I prepared them the traditional way with mashed tatties (potatoes) and neeps (swedes), and once I turned it into a shepherd’s pie of sorts with the tatties and neeps as the topping. That was, however, in the early days of our relationship…need I say more? The things you do when you’re newly in love, right?

Even though haggis is traditionally served on Burns Night, I had no intention of cooking it last weekend – and not just because I’d been away in Sydney and was unable to get up to Coolum to buy it. Scotland has some fabulous salmon, langoustine (which we can’t get here), and scallops. Then there are raspberries, Drambuie, whisky, oatcakes, potato scones, and Irn Bru – the single-best hangover cure the world has ever seen (although I don’t believe that’s ever been proven by actual scientific research).

To come up with our menu I consulted my trusty range of Scottish cookbooks – and ended up going with two dishes I’ve made in the past and a new dessert. It was, after all, a Sunday night and I’d been away for most of this week…

First up, I made oatcakes, from scratch. The recipe I use is from Nick Nairn’s New Scottish Cookery. We served them with some goat’s cheese, tomatoes, basil, and a drizzle of olive oil. In full disclosure, I took this pic last time I made this dish…

The main course was salmon and a lemony buttery linguine. This one comes from Nick Nairn’s “100 Salmon Recipes” and is super simple. All you do is preheat your oven to 200C and pop 50g butter, the finely grated rind and juice of a lemon, and a few grinds of salt and pepper into a roasting tin. Put the tin in the oven for a few minutes until the butter has melted.

While that’s happening, put your pasta water on to boil and pin-bone 4 salmon fillets (preferably without skins) – about 175g each. Place the fillets in the lemony butter, turn them over to make sure both sides have had a turn in the butter, and put the tin back in the oven for about 8 minutes, or until cooked through. If you press it and it’s wobbly, it’s undercooked; if it’s solid, it’s overcooked.

Meanwhile, cook the linguine according to the instructions on the packet. 

When the salmon is cooked take it out of the tray and let it rest on a plate while you finish off the linguine. Drain the pasta (keeping aside ½ cup of the cooking water) and toss it through the lemony salmony butter in the bottom of the roasting tin until every strand of pasta has been coated. Add a little of the reserved cooking water if you need to.

Divide the pasta among 4 plates, adding some chopped parsley to each, and top with the salmon. Drizzle over any leftover pan juices, including the knobbly pieces of lemon zest. Done.

Dessert was Caledonian Cream – sort of like cranachan (which is a favourite of ours) but without the oats. I found this recipe, which is by Diana Henry in The Telegraph. It’s behind a paywall, so here it is. The recipe below serves 6-8 but I made just enough for the two of us. Also, I didn’t want to open a new bottle of whisky because I knew that would mean I’d probably go back to my old habit of having a wee dram each night to help me sleep and it’s taken me ages to get out of that. Instead I used Lochan Ora (a Scotch-based liqueur), although Drambuie (or Bonnie Prince Charlie as it’s sometimes known) would also work.

If you can’t be faffed candying the orange zest don’t worry about this step. We had the leftovers the following night with just plain orange zest on top and it was just as good – and without the palaver of candying it.

Finally, they’re not in the pic, but I served it with shortbread – using this recipe, but substituting orange zest for rosemary.

Caledonian Cream

What you need

For the candied zest

  • 6 broad strips of orange zest, removed with a vegetable peeler
  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 75g caster sugar

For the cream

  • 300ml double cream
  • 250g dark marmalade
  • 1 tbsp light-brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp whisky
  • 200g raspberries

What you do with it

1. To make the candied zest, cut the peel into neat thin strips. Put these in a saucepan with 300ml water and bring to the boil. Then turn down to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, to draw out the bitterness of the zest. Drain. 

2. Put 300ml fresh water and all the granulated sugar into the pan and heat gently, stirring a little to help the sugar dissolve.

3. Add the zest and simmer for 20-30 minutes. The zest should look translucent. Lift it with a fork onto a piece of baking paper, separating the shreds as well as you can. Dust them with caster sugar and leave them to dry. 

4. Whip the cream until it’s holding its shape. I use a handheld mixer for this. Add the marmalade and the sugar and continue to beat until the marmalade has been incorporated, but don’t overwhip. Add the whisky a tablespoon at a time, stirring in well. 

5. Divide the raspberries between your serving glasses, spoon on the cream and top with the candied zest

Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

4 thoughts

  1. Everything looks so good (it can’t really be Scottish, can it? 🙂 ). Full disclosure: I’ve never been to Scotland, but I wouldn’t be traveling there for the food… not that I know anything about it except haggis… which I’ve also never had.

    I have learned two new-to-me words from you, though: faffed (bothered?) and palaver (trouble?). After reading your blog for awhile, I’ll be fluent in Australian in no time 🙂


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