How to host your own Robbie Burns Day supper

Nadine Kalinauskas
Shine On
Haggis, neeps and tatties. (Thinkstock)

January 25th is Robbie Burns Day.

Instead of squeezing into your local Scottish pub — a heads up: many pubs’ Robbie Burns Day suppers are sold out already — why not host your own dinner in honour of the beloved Scottish poet?

Donna Wolff, co-owner for The Caledonian in Toronto shared with us the rundown of a traditional Robbie Burns Day supper.

The Menu:

“Traditionally a Burns Supper is a soup — cock-a-leekie or Cullen skink — followed by haggis, neeps & tatties and then a sweet finish of clootie pudding, sticky toffee pudding or cranachan,” Wolff tells Shine On by email.

The most important item on the menu, of course, is the famous haggis.

“Haggis is Scotland’s national dish and is a sheep’s heart, liver and lungs, steel cut oats, suet, onions and many secret spices,” she continues. “It is encased in a sheep’s stomach and simmered for several hours.”

Up to the challenge of making your own? Try one of these haggis recipes:

  1. A traditional haggis recipe from Rampant Scotland: 
  2. Baked Haggis from BBC Good Food: 
  3. Alton Brown’s Haggis recipe
  4. The Chow’s Haggis recipe, uses ingredients more easily found this side of the Atlantic
  5. Meat-free? Try this recipe for Vegetarian Haggis from The Guardian.

As for cranachan, Wolff describes it as “a traditional Scottish dish of heavy cream, toasted oatmeal, honey, whisky and raspberries.”

Find the recipe for Nigel Slater’s classic cranachan here.

The Order of the Supper:

While there’s a formal order to the evening at most traditional Robbie Burns suppers — including piping in the guests, the Selkirk grace, and traditional toasts (to both the whisky and the lassies) — Wolff recommends we at least “enjoy his works by having people do readings and even a song or two.”

Consider ending with the night with a classic: “Auld Lang Syne.”

Find a the formal-dinner rundown here.

The Whisky:

Of course, no Robbie Burns dinner would be anywhere near complete without whisky — and lots of it.

“Whisky is very important,” Wolff writes. “Each dish, if paired with a malt, should be enhanced by the Whisky. Like salt to a chef, Whisky should complement the dish.”

“Smoky whisky brings out the smoke in meats, the sea in seafood, etc. So I would recommend a spicy Whisky to go with the Haggis — like Talisker or or maybe a Springbank — not too peaty or smoky or it would overpower the dish.

“For your soup, a smoky Cullen skink could support an Islay malt like Ardbeg or Laphroaig. Cock-a-leekie would want a mellowed malt, maybe a North-East Highland malt like Old Pulteney or Clynelish.”

“For dessert like sticky toffee pudding, a sherried Speyside whisky like Balvenie would be perfect.”

Slàinte!

Will you be celebrating Robbie Burns Day this year? And are you a haggis fan?