Honouring the Bard

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!
By Seáneen Sullivan
Each year, as soon as the Christmas tree is down and the fairy lights returned to their box, thoughts turn to plans for my annual Burns Supper. It is a night in honour of Scotland's national poet Robert Burns involving toasting, feasting and general tartan-clad merriment that brightens an otherwise austere January. 25 January was chosen as the day in honour of Burns as his friends believed it was his birthday. When it transpired they were four days out in their calculations they were not discouraged, nor moved to correct their mistake, so Burns Night is celebrated on 25 January to this day. The following recipes are suitable for a party, and can for the most part be made ahead, leaving plenty of time for you to get involved in haggis addressing, lassie toasting and other Burns-esque pursuits with your guests.

Arbroath Smokie Pate

This pate holds beautifully in the fridge and develops in flavour overnight. This can be made with any hot-smoked fish such as trout, haddock or hot-smoked salmon.

Serves 4-6


  • 2 Arbroath smokies

  • 2 unwaxed lemon, juice and zest, grated

  • 150ml goats milk plain yoghurt or crème fraîche

  • 20g snipped chives

  • 1 tsp (5ml) creamed horseradish

  • Flakey sea salt and black pepper

  • 10g capers, deep fried until crispy.

  • Mixed leaves, dressed with a dressing made from one tablespoon apple cider vinegar, one tablespoon grapeseed oil and one teaspoon of Dijon mustard and a pinch of salt.

  • One lemon cut into wedges and grilled for one minute on each side.

  • Oat cakes or crunchy bread.

1. Flake fish off bone and skin and add to a food processor.
2. Add remaining ingredients and season.
3. Pulse to a course pate.
4. Remove from food processor and chill.
5. To serve press 50-60g portions into a small pastry ring, removing ring on the plate.
6. This dish works marvellously with Talisker Storm, or with Bruichladdich Laddie.

Vegetarian Haggis

This is effectively a nut roast with a Scottish accent. Baking in a pudding bowl allows a sense of drama when brought to the table, fit to be addressed! You can do all the steps up to baking in a pudding bowl up to three days ahead, leaving only the baking to be done on the night itself. I serve each portion with a pippette loaded with a dram, allowing the whisky to be poured directly into the haggis, but whisky on the side also works! Something balanced would be best here, a Glendronach would serve well, or a Glenfiddich 12.

Serves 4-6


  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

  • 5 shallots, minced

  • One brown onion, diced

  • 500g mushrooms, chopped coarsely

  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced

  • 2 stalks celery, diced

  • 100g barley

  • Salt and black pepper to taste

  • ½ tsp cinnamon

  • ½ tsp allspice

  • ½ a whole nutmeg, grated

  • 50g puy lentils

  • 1L vegetable stock

  • 1 tbsp miso or soy or even

  • Marmite in a pinch

  • 1 tbsp tomato paste

  • 50g roasted hazelnuts

  • 50g roasted almonds

  • 2 tbsp butter

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

1. Cook the pearl barley in 500ml stock over a medium heat for 30-40 minutes until tender.
2. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a second heavy bottomed pot and add the onion and shallots over medium heat and fry for 5-10 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for one minute then add the mushrooms and cook until mostly dried out. Add carrot, celery and lentils along with the spices, remaining stock and miso and tomato paste. Cook about 40 minutes until lentils are tender, adding more water if required. Combine barley and lentil mixes and the butter. Allow to cool slightly and then mix in the egg and the nuts.
3. Grease a pudding basin. Taste the mix and season, then spoon into the basin, cover with foil and bake at 180c for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 30. Stand five minutes, then turn out and present to the table. Serve with neeps, tatties and lashings of whisky.

Shortbread and a Whisky blood orange Caramel

At the end of a meal, my favourite dessert is Vin Santo, a sticky wine that is served with small biscotti on the side for dipping into the glass. I apply the same principle with this shortbread, pairing it alongside a whisky for dipping. Glenmorangie 10 is a great foil to the butteriness of the biscuit, but Highland Park 12 takes this to a whole other level, revealing flavours of dark burnt orange, cinnamon and vanilla. If you would prefer to serve something more substantial, these shortbreads also work well smothered in a whisky and blood orange caramel and topped with chopped dark chocolate and toasted nibbed almonds.


  • 250g butter at room temperature

  • 110g caster sugar

  • 360g flour

1. Preheat oven to 190c.
2. Beat butter and sugar together until creamy and smooth.
3. Stir in the flour, do not overwork, but the mix should be creamy.
4. Roll mix out on the counter with a floured rolling pin to about 1cm thickness.
5. Cut into squares and place on a parchment baking tray and put the baking tray in the fridge for 30 minutes.
6. Bake for 20 minutes and then cool.

Whisky Blood orange caramel

  • 225g white sugar

  • 80ml whisky (I like Highland Park)

  • Zest of 2 blood oranges

  • 180ml blood orange juice, divided

1. Place whisky and sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Cook until sugar dissolves and allow to turn a golden amber colour.
2. Remove from the heat and add 120ml blood orange juice.
3. Return to the heat for five minutes but do not allow to burn. Cool for 5-10 minutes and then stir in the remaining 60ml juice and the zest.
4. Allow to cool slightly before serving. Can be made ahead and reheated gently.
Vegetarian Haggis
Vegetarian Haggis
Shortbread and a Whisky Blood Orange Caramel
Shortbread and a Whisky Blood Orange Caramel