Help yourself to a slice of haggis, a dram of whisky, and a spoonful of neeps- it’s almost Burns Night. The most Scottish of traditions, it’s one that we English over the border like to celebrate in solidarity with our loch-locked neighbours. Up the union!
Burns Night celebrates the life of Scotland’s favourite son, the poet Robert Burns, author of New Year’s Eve classic Auld Lang Syne (amongst other works). It’s traditionally an evening feast held on the poet’s birthday, 25th January.
The supper consists of traditional Scottish cuisine, whisky, and readings of Burns’ poems. Perhaps the most famous guest at the Burns Night supper is the haggis. Folklore suggests that a haggis is a small Scottish animal with one set of legs longer than the other, so it can stand on steep Scottish highlands without falling over (a slightly nicer idea that the actual source of haggis). It’s served with neeps and tatties (swede and potatoes) and a dram (a glass of whisky).
Before dinner, bag pipers play to announce the arrival of the haggis, which is brought in and placed on the table. There’s then an address to the haggis, where Burns’ poem of the same name is read out and addressed (yep, you guessed it…) to the haggis.
Today’s recipe is a dessert in celebration of the upcoming Scottish celebration. Cranachan is a Scottish dessert and their equivalent of the Eton Mess. It’s made of cream, whisky, honey, and raspberries- what could be better than finishing off a Burns Night supper than traditional Cranachan and shortbread?
Whisky is an essential part of this dish, so now for whisky 101: if it’s a grain whisky it’s made from grains, and if it’s a malt, it’s made from barley that has been specially dried- or ‘malted’. Typically, grain whiskies have a greater strength but less flavour. A single malt is made of one type of grain, blended malt is more than one. All Scotch whisky must spend at least three years in the cask, and this matures the whisky- the longer time spent in the cask, the better- but it doesn’t mature in the bottle. There are rules around the production of Scotch whisky in the United Kingdom, outlined in the Scotch Whisky Regulations 2009- a statute passed by Parliament. If’s its spelt whiskey (with an ‘e’) it’s Irish, and forbidden from use in a Scottish recipe (not really, but probably should be).
So only your finest scotch for this Cranachan recipe, please. (And if you haven’t got any, your dad will have a bottle hidden in a cupboard somewhere.)
* * *
FOR THE CRANACHAN
PREP 25 minutes
▪ Best eaten on day of preparation
75g porridge oats
1tbsp caster sugar
150ml Double cream
1 Over a low heat, toast the oats in a frying pan. This will only take about five minutes. Keep them moving to prevent the oats burning.
2 Next, place the raspberries in a saucepan with the sugar and soften, until the raspberries begin to release their juice.
3 Whip the cream to stiff peaks, then stir in the quark, honey and whisky. This will make the cream a softer consistency.
4 Layer the ingredients in see through glasses, with a layer of cream at the bottom, then oats, and the reaspberries in the middle layer. Then top with more oats and another layer of cream. Drizzle some honey across the top or decorate with a raspberry, and serve with shortbread. ▪
Alternatively, you could prepare all the parts in advance- the oats, the raspberries, and the cream- and after dinner, pop them all out onto the table and let people assemble their own.
* * *
FOR THE SHORTBREAD
MAKES 8 biscuits
▪ Will keep for five days in an airtight container
125g unsalted butter
55g caster sugar
140g plain flour
1 Pre-heat the oven to 190°c/375°c/Gas mark 5. Line a round 8in tin with greaseproof paper.
2 Beat the butter and sugar together until soft and fluffy. Stir in the semolina and flour until it starts to form into a dough.
3 Tip all the mix into the prepared tin and press out evenly, pushing it into the edges of the tin. Use the back of a spoon to smooth it over, then prick with a fork in a decorative pattern.
4 Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until pale-golden brown in colour. Cool slightly in the tin then transfer onto a wire rack. Whilst it is cooling, cut into eight even sized triangles. ▪