Happy Burns night to you all, the night of the year when Scotland celebrates the birthday of its very favourite poet Robert Burns. He arrived to the world on the 25th of January 1759 (or so says Wikipedia :D) and gave us all an excuse to have Haggis, Neeps and Tatties for dinner
Those of you who live in Scotland, feel free to skip the next paragraph, but for those of you with a less Scottish persuasion, here is a quick word of explanation on a traditional Burns night supper (Warning, you might need a strong stomach for the next couple of sentences). A haggis is traditionally made by taking the liver, heart and lungs a.k.a ‘pluck’ of of a sheep, boiling and mincing them with diced onion, oatmeal and spices, then stuffing them into a sheep’s stomach, sewing it up and boiling it. Its is usually served with mashed potato (tatties) and turnips (neeps). Once its all cooked, a procession occurs where the haggis is carried into the dining room accompanied by a bag-piper, and the head of the household recites Robert Burns fairly incomprehensible poem ‘Address to a Haggis’. When the poem gets to the line His knife see rustic Labour dicht, the speaker takes a kitchen knife and stabs the Haggis open. Nope, we’re not kidding :D.
Now, that being said, even though Phil and I consider ourselves to be fairly adventurous cooks most of the time, we (along with more or less every Scot out there) don’t make out own haggis, but instead buy it from a butchers or supermarket. Although, I did have to make a haggis once for a school cooking project, but probably the less said about that the better.
A modern store bought haggis usually comes in a synthetic wrapper (although the sheep’s stomach wrapped variety are still definitely available) and simply needs wrapping in foil and steaming for about 45 minutes, which isn’t the most interesting blog post for you all. So, really this was just a super long winded way of us saying, that even though its Burn’s night we didn’t make haggis today, instead we have made different but equally delicious Scottish specialities: Cullen Skink, or as the rest of the world knows it Smoked Haddock Chowder with Honey Oat bread for mopping it all up. Yum!
A good bowl of Cullen Skink is the perfect dinner for a cold January night; creamy, hearty and full of delicious smoked fish flavour, and the honeyed oat bread is just dense and sweet enough to soak it up. Traditional Cullen Skink is made using Arbroath Smokies. Arbroath is a Scottish town near Angus which is world famous for is beautiful wood-smoked haddock, known as smokies. Even though we live in Scotland, genuine smokies are pretty hard to get hold of, so we just used regular smoked haddock. Tonight we picked dyed because it makes our soup a pretty colour, but the dye doesn’t add any additional flavour and is totally a personal choice.
So, here’s how we made them. The bread recipe is first because you will need to get started on that before the soup, to give it time to rise.
Honeyed Oat Bread
1 1/2 cups of flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
For the glaze:
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon rolled oats
1) Dry Mix – Put the flour, oats and yeast into the bowl of your stand mixer and mix using the dough hook for a few seconds to distribute the yeast evenly. Next add the salt and mix for another few seconds to spread this evenly through the mix (always make sure you add your salt and yeast separately or you will end up with unhappy yeast).
2) Wet Mix – In a small saucepan slowly heat the milk, butter and water, just until the butter is melted. When it’s ready it should be at warm but not so hot you can’t put your little finger in it (sort of babies bottle temperature). Next add the honey, and stir until it is dissolved.
3) Mix and Knead – Turn your mixer onto a low speed and slowly add the wet mix to the dry mix. Once all the wet mix is incorporated turn your mixer up to medium to knead (still using the dough hook) for five minutes. After the first five minutes of kneading are done, check your dough. It should be very sticky but have formed into a single ball. If it is still a little wet add more flour a tablespoon at a time, or if its too dry add a little more water, also a table spoon at a time. Knead for a further five minutes.
4) Rise – Turn out your dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for a hour, or until doubled in size.
5) Shape – Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a nine inch square. Roll into a tube and place in a lightly greased loaf tin. Cover and leave to rise for another 45 minutes.
6) Glaze and Bake – Preheat your oven to 180ºC (360F). Brush the top of your dough with honey (you might need to warm your honey slightly to help it brush easily) and sprinkle the leftover oatmeal evenly cross the surface. Place in the oven and bake for 40 minutes. When it is ready it should be a nice even golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Cullen Skink (Smoked Haddock Chowder)
4 medium sized waxy potatoes, peeled and diced
1 onion, finely chopped
1 leek, finely sliced
1 cup of savoy cabbage, shredded (this isn’t traditional but we love the flavour of it in our soup, feel free to add any other winter vegetables you fancy)
1 knob butter 1/2 tablespoon 😛
4 cups milk
1 cup fish stock
1 large smoked haddock fillet, skinned and sliced into 1 inch strips
1 cup sweetcorn kernals
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper
1) Potatoes – Place your diced potatoes in a saucepan of cold salted water over a medium heat, and boil for 5 minutes or until almost cooked. (We always think it is important to pre-boil your potatoes for this soup, because if you add them raw with the fish, the haddock will have disintegrated by the time the potatoes are cooked. So, an extra step but worth the effort, we think).
2) Onions, Leeks and Cabbage – In a large saucepan, over a medium heat, slowly soften your onions and leeks in a little olive oil, until they are just translucent. Next add your cabbage with
a knob of 1/2 tablespoon butter and cook until wilted.
3) Everything else – Add the milk, stock and chunks of haddock to the pan. When the soup starts to bubble, add the potatoes , corn and cream then leave to simmer for 5 minutes. Finally season to taste and serve with some delicious honeyed oat bread.
So, there you have it. One totally nontraditional but totally delicious Burns night supper. And don’t worry, we aren’t forgoing haggis this year. We just usually wait until they are reduced in the shops tomorrow and have one the day after Burns night. Belated haggis has become a bit of a tradition of its own in our house.
So tell us, do you celebrate Burns night too? Do you have any nontraditional traditions of your own?