Happy Burns Night! If you've never heard of it, think of it as an excuse to have a Scotch-soaked winter soiree on this side of the pond in honor of our friends in Scotland. The January 25th celebration marks the birthday of the country's national poet Robert Burns, the 18th century writer who penned the words to the New Year's classic Auld Lang Syne.
Traditionally, Scottish folk celebrate the occasion by hosting a Burns Night supper of Scottish food and drink complete with toasts and readings of Burns' poetry. These days, it's also common to head out for the evening, since plenty of restaurants and pubs throughout Scotland (as well as in England and even some in the U.S.) throw special Burns Nights events. Several Scottish cities even hold multi-day festivals. If you're ready to jump on the Burns Night bandwagon but are wary of Scottish fare (which suffers from a perennial PR problem over here, probably thanks to haggis, its national dish of sheep innards which has been banned in the U.S. since 1971 and is thus pretty hard to come by), here are five divine dishes and drinks that'll hopefully make a Burns Night Supper your new annual tradition. No kilt required.
Neeps and Totties
If nothing else, just saying Neeps and Totties is fun. The winter-perfect soup that BBC Good Food refers to as "Burns Night in a bowl" is made with onion, potato, milk and what the Scots call neeps or swede (otherwise known as rutabaga), and then topped with good old haggis—but you can easily sub in ground sausage or lamb or skip the meat altogether.
Photo courtesy of Instagram/BBCGoodFood
Scotch eggs are basically just hard-boiled eggs that have been covered in sausage, breaded and deep-fried: What's not to love? Split them open for a pop of color on the plate. This recipe from Jamie Oliver keeps the yolks runny and bakes them off after frying, then pairs them with pickles and cheese. Um, even better.
Roasted Tartan Veggies
Vegetarians have no excuse not to celebrate as there are plenty of modern, veggie-friendly takes on traditional Scottish fare these days. The food writer and recipe developer behind Lavender and Lovage, who splits her time between England and France, named this dish after the colorful tartan kilts you see all over Scotland. She uses it to showcase the seasonal root vegetables (like parsnips, carrots and beets) that are available in the UK this time of year. Luckily, they're also readily available here, but feel free to swap in any veggies you like.
Bobbie Burns Cocktail
The folks over at UK entertaining blog The Toast got their hands on the recipe for this stiff drink served at London's Scottish eatery Mac & Wild. It's a blend of Talisker, a 10-year-old single malt Scotch (though you can mix in whichever one you like most); red vermouth; and crème de cassis. The best part? The shortbread garnish … genius.
Christina Conte, a Scottish-Italian food blogger living in Los Angeles, points out on her blog Christina's Cucina that Cranachan is pretty much the quintessential dessert thanks to its perfect combination of Scotch whiskey, oats, heather honey and raspberries (along with some decadent whipped cream thrown in for good measure). Raspberries may not be in season, but you can easily snag some at the grocery store (along with any kind of raw, organic honey) and impress your Burns Night revelers with this lovely layered sweet treat.
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