For more than two centuries, suppers have been held on January 25th to honour Scotland’s best-loved bard, Robbie Burns. The ritual all began at the start of the 19th century when some of his close friends decided to honour his memory.
At the start of the supper, the haggis is carried in very grandly on a silver platter by the chef, led by a piper and accompanied by a slow handclap from all the guests. Then there is a reading of Robbie’s famous poem ‘Address to a Haggis’, when, upon the words in the third verse “An cut you up wi ready slight” being read out, the haggis is ceremoniously cut open.
Naturally, everyone toasts this moment with a wee dram of single malt whisky, before sitting down to eat the haggis, accompanied by ‘tatties and neeps’ – mashed potatoes, carrots and turnips for the uninitiated.
Now, the idea of eating minced lamb, oatmeal, onions and spices cooked in a sheep’s stomach is not to everybody’s taste, so here is a recipe for Cullen Skink, a very tasty soup which is also often served on Burns’ Night. This soup has its roots in Cullen, a small town on the Moray Firth coast and is traditionally made using Finnan haddock.
1-1/2 lb peeled potatoes
1 onion, finely chopped
2 pints water
1 lb Finnan haddock or other smoked white fish
Salt and pepper
Put the potatoes and onion in a large pot with the water and cook until the potatoes are almost soft.
Lay the Finnan haddock on top. Put the lid on the pot and cook for a further 5 minutes until the fish is just cooked. Remove the fish, skin, bone and flake the flesh.
Partially mash the potatoes and onions in the cooking liquor (some prefer a “lumpy” soup while others like a smoother base). Return the flaked fish to the pot, mix thoroughly and add enough milk to create the desired consistency, either a thickish stew-soup or a thinner soup.
Season with salt and pepper and serve with crusty bread.