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. It’s the one time when a whisky with your dinner won’t have your fellow diners mouthing, “When did she turn into Sue Ellen?” behind your back. But for some reason even that isn’t enough to tempt me into a haggis supper this year.
I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’ve been channelling every scrap of my celtic feeling to try and get properly Burns Night-y: 1) my mother and my sister both live within a birdie’s distance of (different) Open golf courses; 2) Edinburgh is my alma mater; 3) I know what lorne sausage is. Other than having my own tartan, I just don’t know how much more of a Scot-ophile I could possibly be and yet that haggis is still not doing it for me. Not to be defeated, I’ve been looking into other traditional Scottish recipes that will make an interesting alternative to the usual Burns Night fare.
Partan is/was the Scottish word for crab. The Scottish coast – and particularly Fife – is reknowned for its fantastic crabbing. This ‘pie’ would traditionally have been made by extracting all the meat from the crab, doing some wonderful things to it to make it taste even better, and then piling the meat back into the crab shell to be cooked or grilled.
Do that by all means, or for a slightly simpler version I think I will be buying some crab-meat and making my partan pie in a ramekin to serve as a starter.
For 4: Mix 400g crabmeat (half and half brown to white) with 1 tbsps white wine vinegar, 2 tbsps Dijon mustard, 1 tbsp chopped parsley, a good squeeze of lemon, 1/4tsp grated nutmeg and salt & pepper to taste. Pile all this into buttered ramekins.
Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top and cook at 190C for 15/20 mins until hot and browned.
COLLOPS OF VENISON
Not a typo. Collops are thick fillets of meat – typically venison or lamb. I’m going for venison. For 4:
To season the collops:
- 1tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 6 crushed juniper berries
- a good squeeze of lemon
Mix all this lot together and season. Rub into the 4 venison collops, cover and leave for as long as you can. An hour at least, overnight if poss.
To cook the collops and make the sauce:
- 2 shallots
- big glass of red wine
- smaller glass of water, or a good veal stock if you have one
- 1 tbsp rowan or blackberry jelly
- a squeeze of orange
Preheat the oven to 180C. Chop the shallots and cook in a big piece of butter in a frying pan. Once softened, add the collops and sear over a high heat. Take the collops out of the pan and pop them (covered) into the oven – they’ll need a further 8-10 minutes. Get the pan juices nice and hot. Add the wine and bubble to reduce. Add the water and let that reduce too. Stir in the jelly and give it a squeeze of orange. Season and serve hot over the collops. Those most tradish of Burns veggies – neeps and tatties – would go well alongside.
DEEP FRIED MARS BARS
If ever it comes up that I went to a Scottish university, I’m always amazed at how intrigued people are to know if Deep Fried Mars Bars really exist and if I ever had one. Well, yes and yes. And as I recall – albeit I was probably a couple of studenty sheets to the wind at the time – it wasn’t half bad. I’m almost convinced that it stands up to more sober sampling all these gazillion years later, and it’ll be a talking point if nothing else.
This is based on Nigella’s (in)famous recipe for Deep Fried Bounty Bars. For 4:
Chill 4 mini Mars Bars. Make the batter by mixing together 150g self-raising flour and 175ml sparkling water. You might need a bit more water to get the right consistency i.e. just thick enough to stick to the Mars. Heat 2 litres of sunflower oil in a deep fat fryer or large saucepan. Please be extraordinarily careful. I know this won’t come as a shock but hot oil hurts like hell if it gets on you. Test if the oil is hot enough by dropping a small piece of bread in – if it sizzles and goes crisply brown you are ready to go.
Unwrap the Mars and stick a cocktail stick into each one. Holding onto that, dunk each Mars in the batter, then plunge into the fat and fry for about 3 minutes until puffed up and golden. Carefully take them out of the fryer, drain on kitchen paper to take away any excess oil, and serve to your guests who I bet will be absolutely agog. And possibly also aghast.
Angela Clutton is writing a book about all kinds of ways of living and doing things that have been passed down through generations. For more information, visit her website.