If you're like most people who don't live in Scotland, you're confused by the whole concept of "Burns Night." Does it have to do with Mr. Burns on the Simpsons? Do you burn things? Who is this Robert Burns guy anyway? Well, those are all pretty fair questions for the uninitiated, so here's a quick cheat sheet:
Robert Burns was an 18th century Scottish poet. He wrote a famous poem about a traditional Scottish food named haggis, but, most importantly, wrote a little song we know as "Auld Lang Syne." You may have heard it. Every New Year's. He also was quite the ladies' man, fathering up to 14 children in 20 years with 5 different women. A responsible father and partner, he likely was not. And, in part because he died of "intemperance" at the ripe old age of 37, and he wrote poetry in the traditional Scottish language, he is celebrated as the "National Poet of Scotland." Each year his birth is celebrated with a traditional Scottish feast, filled with 'neeps (turnips), tatties (potatoes), haggis (you don't want to know), and scotch. Lots of scotch. It's been celebrated annually since 1801, and is a big deal in Scotland.
We celebrated our 4th annual "Burns Brunch" this year with good friends, traditional food, and a select few drams of fabulous whisky. We wanted to share a few pics and a fun drink recipe, just to show it was a pretty good time!
When guests arrived, we greeted them with a smile, and a whisky cocktail we affectionately dubbed a "Glasgow Mule." It was tasty, surprisingly strong, and went down smooth. Maybe a bit too smooth, considering we went through roughly 3 gallons of them in our hour long reception time!! Here's how to make them at home, if you are ever interested:
2 parts ginger beer (we used diet)
1 part full-bodied single malt or blended scotch. Peaty scotch works well for this, as it blends well with the sweetness of the ginger beer.
A splash of fresh lime juice.
Stir and serve!
We served a couple of passed appetizers to go with. We went with a smoked salmon and creme fraiche "cone," and a waffle-cut sweet potato fry topped with creme fraiche and caviar. Both were smoky, salty, tasty, and were an ode to traditional Scottish ingredients. Quick bites, but yummy!
We also served traditional Scottish fare for brunch, including a cold pasta, smoked salmon, asparagus tip and caviar salad, "neeps and tatties" soup, Natalie's famous quiche, haggis hash topped with soft-poached eggs, brussels sprouts, a haggis shepherd's pie, and a raspberry cranachan trifle for dessert. A friend was nice enough to bring scotch eggs to share with the group. There were 32 of us, 16 bottles of whisky, plenty of food, and fun and fabulous conversation.
As good as the food and conversation was, the real star of the brunch was the scotch we enjoyed throughout. A few highlights from the scotch selection are included for your enjoyment!
So, next time someone talks about inviting you to a Burns Supper, or brunch, take them up on it--it's worth a try to discover a different culture, meet new friends, and raise a wee dram to the memory of Robert Burns.