Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Burns Night in Somerset

Two weeks ago I was brave enough to battle the few centimetres of snow we received and head down to Somerset to visit some friends.  I stayed a few nights with Aimee and her sweet family.  I actually went to high school with her back in Canada but she too was swept off her feet by the charms of an Englishman and has lived here for years.  We hadn't seen each other in about 15 years - my husband even saw her before I did when he dropped off their puppy Poppy back in December.  We pretty much spent the entire time talking non-stop - the only quiet time had when sleeping and eating.  It was great!  As for what we ate - I brought a few Canadian treats and we baked some Reese's peanut butter chip cookies and Aimee helped solve my pierogi problem by revealing that Asda sell them!  All this time, pierogies (which I mentioned I'm hoping to make from scratch here) were right under my nose and I was travelling to Canada to eat them (and visit family).
Poppy the puppy

I was then off down the road to visit my friends, Beccy, Darek and their gorgeous girl Ruby.  Darek is originally from Scotland and as January 25th was Burns Night, the whole family had gathered together to celebrate poet Robert Burns and feast on a wonderful meal.  Food plays such an important role at so many of our celebrations. The star of this meal was most definitely the haggis.  A first for me but I really liked it.

There is quite a ritual to this meal.  First, the haggis was piped in - I say piped, more liked hummed as we lacked bagpipes and anyone who could play them (sidebar: my neighbour at university used to play the bagpipes nice and early on the weekends - we were not friends).  Next, we said The Selkirk Grace, together in our best Scottish accents.  Then came the Address to a Haggis.  We went around the table, taking turns to each read a verse and I was given the high honour of slicing into the haggis when reading the third verse.

Then we feasted.  I love trying new foods and I especially love when someone else has done the cooking.  The surprise and wonder of how everything will taste gets me really hyped up.  I tried to help in the kitchen and managed to peel a few potatoes but I think we were all most helpful outside of the kitchen to let Darek the chef work his magic.  The starter was absolutely brilliant - a traditional Scottish soup, Cullen Skink, which is a smoked haddock chowder and soooooo good.

The main event was the haggis, served with neeps and tatties (mashed turnips and mashed potatoes) with a little kale (gotta have those green leafy veggies).  I didn't take a picture because I was too busy stuffing my face!  And though the description of haggis (and even the name) can be off putting, give it a try before you knock it.  The texture was very interesting and the flavour was so rich.

This meal was traditional through and through topped off with Cranachan for dessert, which is made from raspberries, cream, oatmeal and honey.

We ended the evening with some Scottish whisky and a few readings of Robbie Burns' works.  Beccy had chosen each one to suit each guest, which was a lovely touch.

I tried my best with the whisky but it took me back to a rough night at university where one too many shots took me over the edge and I pretty much went blind.  I haven't touched the stuff since so on Burns Night I toasted the poet with my third (fourth? ok fifth) glass of wine.

I really enjoyed this celebration and hope to someday be a part of it again.  Although it won't be with the other half - he doesn't like fish, haggis or raspberries - so glad I was on my own for this one!  

So, what are you celebrating these days?  Which foods are the stars?


  1. Great post! BTW, Wayno could always eat KFC at the kids table...

  2. Nice to see you have re-connected with your old Canadian friend. Kirk's grandma was from Scotland and she used to make Haggis. He chivers every time you mention the word. Love reading your blogs!