Friday, 31 January 2014

Burns Night

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye worthy o' a grace
As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o need,
While thro your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead. 
His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An cut you up wi ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer,
Gie her a Haggis

Burns Night is a celebration of the life and times of the Scottish icon, Robert Burns and is held near the poets birthday, 25th January (normally the closest Saturday due to the amount of whiskey that is likely to be consumed).
Now, I'm not Scottish.  Most of my friends aren't Scottish and there is no real reason why we should be celebrating Burns night except for a general appreciation for his poetry and a desire to spend an evening in good company, eating good food and drinking good booze.  As Sinead would say, it's all about the craic.  She messaged me a few weeks ago, asking what I was doing on Saturday.  As luck would have it I happened to be free (RV later messaged me to see if I wanted to get tickets for the Play That Went Wrong, which, by all accounts is just brilliant and well worth going to see if it is in your area but I had to politely decline).

Turns out she was planning a Burns Night - we would get together, eat neaps and haggis, recite Scottish poetry, drink whiskey and play games for as long as we could see straight. 
There are certain ceremonial functions to a traditional Burns night.  You normally start with a soup course (or in our case, blini's - close enough).
Followed by the Selkirk Grace and the Piping of the Haggis.  In the absence of an actual piper who could actually play the bagpipes whilst the haggis is being bought out reverently on its silver trencher (there is a huge difference between being get a note out of a set of bagpipes and getting a half-way decent sound out of it) we settled for the Ipad.  Again, close enough.
The haggis is bought forward on a silver trencher whilst all the guests stand and solemnly swear their oaths of everlasting loyalty, fidelity, obedience and allegiance to the round mix of sheep's pluck and stomach lining on the table.

The nominated speaker then recites the Address to the Haggis before majestically and dramatically slicing into it with the ceremonial knife.  All the guests listen carefully, nodding their appreciation and not having the faintest idea what the poet is actually going on about.  Most of the time the speaker doesn't have the first blue clue what they are saying either.  We had a real Scotsman reading for us as well and he couldn't understand a word of what was coming out of his mouth.
Finally the Address to the Haggis is complete and everyone toasts with a small dram of whiskey and settles down to plates full of haggis, neaps and whiskey sauce.  I should probably pause here and explain that haggis is sheep's pluck (ie. heart, liver and lungs) minced with onions, oatmeal, suet, spices, salt and stock and traditionally encased in animal stomach lining and then simmered for 3 hours.  I know that if you have never tried haggis this does sound utterly appalling but it is delicious - it's a bit like a more complex version of the stuffing you get with a roast dinner.   Neaps are simply turnip mash (although we had parsnip mash) and you can also serve it with tatties - potato mash.  The whiskey sauce is just whiskey and cream. 
A good Burns night supper is always served with plenty of alcohol and this was no exception - there was a good selection of whiskey, beer, wine, champagne and I bought my decidedly un-Scottish Naga vodka along for people to try - it made a few eyes water! 
However a night cannot be purely about eating, drinking and reciting poetry that noone understands and after the last of the haggis was cleared away we ventured away from tradition and the games were pulled out, conveniently meaning we skipped the Toast to the Lassies and the Toast to the Laddies.  Firstly there was the drinking version of Jenga with forfeits on every brick and drinking penalties if you failed.  I made it very clear very early that I was not using the naga vodka for drinking penalties - I would have roasted my throat! 
The results here are fairly predictable.  The more people drink the more unstable the tower gets, the more overconfident they get, the more wobbly their hands get until, finally,

That's Lula looking distinctly unimpressed with the nights activities thus far.

After a brief sugar break, courtesy of my miniature salted caramel chocolate tarts (which I somehow turned into grown up dime bars due to the caramel being a bit harder than normal) we continued.
This time Dixit got pulled out.  Dixit is a game I have never played before but I am now utterly addicted.  You are given a set of beautifully crafted picture cards and you don't reveal them to anyone.  You then come up with a description for one of your cards which needs to be vague enough not to be obvious, but clever enough to still win you points and put your card facedown on the table.  Everyone else puts a card facedown on the table from their own deck which they feel matches your description.
The cards are shuffled and turned the right way up and everyone votes with their little counters for the card that they think was the original.  The scoring system is a little complicated but basically you get points only if a few people correctly guess the original card (if everyone does it was too obvious and therefore you need to try harder) and you get points if people you put down one of the other cards and people voted thinking that it was the original.
It is very clever, very creative and utterly addictive.  I think that the phrase or word below was 'Transformation of the sibling'.  Turns out it was a Labyrinth reference.
We played until the wee hours then, unable to really see straight anymore, decided it was probably time to make a move homeward bound.  We should have sung Auld Lang Syne with joined hands before we left, but the taxi arrived remarkably quickly.   I think Sinead and Ben may have inadvertently created a new annual tradition though. 


  1. I have never tried Haggis before! Looks like you had fun!

    1. We did indeed, and you must try it Emily! It is delicious!

  2. What a nice post!
    Perhaps you'd like to follow each other on


    1. Thanks Laura, I'll check out your blog!

  3. Drinking Jenga is so much fun!! I've never been able to find the actual game in a shop but I made my own version :) hahaha brilliant!!

    Amazing photography and photographs - you have inspired me. What camera do you use??

    I'm an absolute crazy cat lady and thought your cat was adorable! Wow. All the food looks AMAZING too - really awesome post!

    New follower on GFC and Bloglovin!

    1. Jade, what a lovely comment, thank you! That isn't my cat, it's my friend's but you can see mine here The food was yum! Thanks for your comment about my pictures, that was really sweet - I use a Canon EOS Compact System M for the most part and there is a link in my FAQ's here I'm going to check out your blog in my lunch break! xx