Burns Night is a traditional Scottish celebration that honours the life and works of the Scottish poet, Robert Burns. The event is held every year on the 25th January, which coincides with Burns’ Birthday. It is a celebration of Scottish heritage, tradition, poetry, and food. But who was Robert Burns? Let’s find out…
Robert Burns was born in 1759, in Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland. He grew up in a farming family so most of his knowledge was self-taught. Having developed a passion for literature, he started to write poetry that reflected his experiences as a farmer and his observations of the rural life of 18th-century Scotland. Some of his most famous works include "Auld Lang Syne," "To a Mouse," and "Tam O'Shanter."
Burns' works celebrate the common people and their experiences, and his use of the Scots language and themes of love, nature, and social injustice have resonated with readers for centuries. His influence extends beyond Scotland and his poems and songs continue to be celebrated and recited around the world today.
So, whether you’re planning on celebrating Burns Night for the first time or if it’s a long-standing tradition, now is the time to get organised and stock up on food, drink, and all of the other ingredients you’ll need to make the night a success.
The evening usually begins with the "Address to the Haggis," a poem written by Robert Burns. The haggis, a traditional Scottish dish made from sheep's heart, liver, and lungs, and mixed with oatmeal and spices, is brought into the room and the poem is recited before the haggis is ceremoniously sliced.
The main course often includes haggis, neeps (mashed turnips), and tatties (mashed potatoes). Other Scottish dishes like cock-a-leekie soup, Scotch broth, and cranachan (a dessert made with cream, whisky, honey, and raspberries) are also popular.
To make your own traditional haggis, you’ll need:
- 1 ox bung, soaked for four hours and cleaned
- 4kg lamb’s pluck (heart, lungs and liver)
- 500g of beef, lamb trimmings, or stewing steak
- 200g suet
- 500g course oatmeal or pre-made Haggis Mix
- 2 tbsp ground black pepper
- 1 tsp freshly ground coriander seeds
- 4tsp fine sea salt
- Rinse the whole pluck in cold water. Trim off any large pieces of fat and cut away the windpipe
- Place in a good-sized pot and cover with cold water. The lungs float, so keep them submerged with a plate or a lid. Bring to the boil and skim the surface regularly. Gently simmer for 2 hours
- Lift the meat from the pot with tongs or a slotted spoon, and rinse in cold water to remove any scum. Place into a bowl and leave to cool
- Strain cooking liquid through a fine sieve and put it back on the stove to reduce until you have roughly 500–1l of stock. Leave to cool
- Whilst the stock reduces, finely dice the cooked heart and lungs. Grate the liver using the coarse side of the grater. Finely dice the trimmings. Mix together in a large bowl, along with the suet, oatmeal and spices
- If you’re using Haggis Mix, replace the oatmeal and spices with your pre-made mix
- Measure how much stock remains from cooking the pluck and add cold water until there is about 1l
- To check the seasoning, pan-fry a tablespoon of the mixture for 2–3 minutes and taste. Add any extra salt, pepper, or spice if needed
- Spoon the haggis mixture into the soaked, rinsed ox bung. Be aware the filling swells as it cooks, so pack quite loosely, and keep a little bung at each end
- When the haggis is the size required, expel any extra air, pinch, tie with string and cut with scissors
- Tie the new end of the bung and continue stuffing
- Before cooking, pierce the haggis several times with a needle. Place in a pan of cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 1.5–2 hours. When ready, the internal temperature should read at least 74°C
- Serve with freshly made neeps and tatties
Head over to Butchers-Sundries to shop our wide collection of ingredients and equipment.
Once everyone is finished with the food, it's time to enjoy some traditional Scottish Whiskey. You could organise a whisky-tasting session with a selection of different whiskies from various regions in Scotland.
As the drinks start flowing, it's important to remember and enjoy the poetry and music of Robert Burns. You could either have someone read them aloud or encourage guests to take turns.
Don’t forget to wear traditional Scottish attire and decorate the place with tartan tablecloths, napkins, and other decorations to create a Scottish ambiance.
Burns Night is ultimately about celebrating Scottish culture and enjoying the company of friends and family. Have fun, share stories, and savour the traditional elements of the evening.