“Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face, Great Chieftan o’ the Puddin-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place, Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace As lang’s my arm.”
The national poet of Scotland, Robert Burns, wrote these words as part of an ode to a haggis in 1786. Haggis is a seasoned pudding of sheep or beef organ meats, onions and oatmeal boiled in a stomach casing. The piercing of that casing with a shiny dagger (sgian-dubh) while the poem is being read is one of several highlights to be enjoyed during a Burns Night dinner. “Burns suppers” have been celebrated annually on Jan. 25 around the world since shortly after his death in 1796 at the age of 37.
Our friend Mike shares a Jan. 25 birthday with the poet, and has long hosted a Burns supper for twelve adults and nearly as many children. Kilts and other regalia are de rigueur for the men, and the food and drink is decidedly Scottish. Several books of Burns’ poetry are on hand, and as each participant considers the possibilities and warms to the task of faking a brogue if necessary (some don’t have to fake it), the poems are read aloud with gusto. Besides “To a Haggis,” we often hear “Ode to a Louse,” Ode to a Mouse” (that ‘wee timorous beastie’), “Red, Red Rose” (‘Oh my love is like….’), “To the Laddies,” “To the Lassies” and “Auld Lang Syne.” Always a delightful evening.
The multi-course meal this year was prepared by several contributors. I helped with the appetizers, which included smoked Scottish salmon, Scottish whiskey cheddar, Irish cheddar, English Cotswold cheese, and Scotch eggs with mustard and pickled onions. Scotch eggs are boiled eggs with a blanket of sausage and breadcrumbs around them, fried and/or baked until the meat is fully cooked. Scottish farmers ate them as a portable lunch in the 17th century, and they are now a popular snack in Scottish pubs. The rich egg and sausage pairing is nicely accompanied by any mustard and the crisp vinegar bite of pickled onions. It was the beginning of a meal worthy of a long grace, indeed.
Ingredients (Serves 8):
Bring the 8 eggs to a boil for 3 minutes and cool them quickly with cold water before peeling. If your sausage is already seasoned, divide it into 8 balls. If it is not, before you divide, add ½ teaspoon each of salt, pepper, nutmeg and sage or rosemary.
Place three bowls at hand: one with the flour, one with the beaten egg and one with the bread crumbs. Flour your hands, flatten a sausage ball into a large, thin patty in one hand, roll an egg in the flour, and mold the sausage patty around it, covering it completely. Roll the sausage-egg in the flour, then in the beaten egg and finally in the bread crumbs.
Heat the oil in a deep pan to 300 degrees. Gently place the eggs in the pan and cook until golden, turning as necessary, between 5-10 minutes. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. To assure that the meat is completely cooked, place the eggs in a 400 degree oven for another 5-10 minutes. Leave them whole or slice in half and serve with a bowl of mustard and pickled onions.
Pickled Red Onions, adapted from Michael Symon’s recipe
Place the sliced onions in a sturdy glass bowl or jar. Place the vinegar, water, sugar, salt and spices in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for two minutes and pour the hot liquid over the onions. Delicious when served with any meat. Refrigerate for up to one month.
Felicia is a local home cook; she can be reached at email@example.com.