(Today’s recipe: Balmoral Chicken)
I've heard my Scottish friends talk of Burns Night, but I never actually knew what it was and did not want to show my complete stupidity by saying, “what dat den?” So when Sam invited us for a Burns Night Supper, I had to be brave and say, “what dat den?” She very kindly explained that it had nothing to do with Guy Fawkes (come on, burn, fireworks, how could I know), but with Scotland's most famous poet. (And in my defense I even know one of his 559 poems, so there.)
Robert Burns was born in Ayrshire in Scotland (I think you might have guessed that by now) on the 25th of January (and possibly that too) 1759, which does somewhat explain why I am not that familiar with him. One of Robbie's poems that I know is “A Red, Red Rose” and Sam recited another one of his lovely poems in broad Scots about a frog that unfortunately gets eaten in the end. Seems Scottish frogs suffer the same short life that French ones do.
Tim and Lynette were also there and he recited a Welsh poem (no prizes for guessing their nationality). I understood a few words from Samantha's recitation, but he may as well have been speaking Greek for all I know. Not even a suggestion of understanding a single word. Or did he have a cold? Just kidding Tim! We visited Wales once and absolutely adored the people and countryside. Mind you, we couldn't read any of the roadsigns so going back to the same places will be impossible. But stop side tracking me, dammit, and let me get back to our lovely Scottish evening.
Traditionally haggis is served for Burns Night and this night was to be no exception. We had a lovely starter of salad with sliced pears, goats cheese, duck breast and freshly cracked walnuts. Deevine. And then came the highlight: Haggis, but not just haggis, chicken stuffed with haggis and wrapped with bacon. SUPERB is all I have to say. Served with a cream and whiskey sauce and Sam's version of neeps and tatties, I was in heaven. Okay, okay, I'll give more details, just hold your horses!
Haggis is a dish containing sheep's 'pluck' (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally simmered in the animal's stomach for approximately three hours. Most modern commercial haggis is prepared in a casing rather than an actual stomach. (Copied from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haggis ) (The photo is also copied from the same link.)
Now don't go getting all “yuck” on me – the sheep's innards are balanced with the other goodies and it is an extremely tasty concoction. Roberto even wrote a poem about Haggis called “Address to a Haggis” and this is the first verse: (I love the first line! I've had that said to me before...)
Nice seeing your honest, chubby face,
Great chieftain of the sausage race!
Above them all you take your place,
Belly, tripe, or links:
Well are you worthy of a grace
As long as my arm.
Neeps and Tatties are turnips or swedes that have been boiled and mashed. In Scotland the turnips grow so big that they are often carved like pumpkins for Halloween. Incredible. Unfortunately Sam couldn't find any here in the south west of France so she very cleverly boiled and mashed sweet potatoes and regular old tatties so we would have the same visual effect. Smart, damn smart. And deelicious, damn deelicious.
I have copped out here and am giving you a link for the recipe. 'Course I could come up with my own version, but then it wouldn't be traditional Scottish now would it?! There's the written recipe and a video so you can enjoy Heather Reid's nice Scottish accent if you like. Enjoy!!!
Another photo of my dinner but without the flash – hey, I'm still learning!