Haggis may be traditional fare for Burns' Night but let's face it, it's not everyone's cup of tea. So here's a Scottish inspired menu that I suspect you'll probably enjoy rather more (unless you're born and bred Scots, of course...)
Warm mussel, leek and saffron tarts
Venison sausages with red wine and rosemary gravy, celeriac and potato mash and swede and carrot pure
Luxury bread pudding with whisky sauce
These easy tarts (just a puff pastry base, in fact) were inspired by a visit to the Isle of Lewis off the north-west coast of Scotland where they grow wonderful small sweet mussels.
1 kg (2.2lb) fresh mussels
1 375g packed ready rolled all butter puff pastry (if you can find it I like the Dorset butter pastry which is available in Waitrose)
50 ml (2 fl oz) dry white wine
A good pinch of saffron (about 20 strands)
1 medium to large leek (about 200g/7oz)
40g (1 1/2 oz) butter
1 1/2 tbsp plain flour
50ml (2 fl oz) double cream
Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste
A couple of sprigs of fresh parsley
Although these free-form ‘tarts’ look very impressive the beauty of them is that you don’t need to be remotely skilled at handling pastry to knock the dish together.
Tip the mussels into a sinkful of cold water and swirl them around. Remove them to a colander, change the water, replace them and go through each one with a small, sharp knife removing the slightly hairy looking ‘beard’ with a good yank. Place each one as you finish in a large bowl of water and leave to soak for at least half an hour. Drain them and discard any that are still open.
Preheat your oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas 7. Roll out the pastry. Cut lengthways into two then cut each half into three evenly sized squares. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet, prick with a fork then bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown.
Bring 50ml (2 fl oz) of white wine or water to the boil in a large lidded pan then tip in all the mussels. Give the pan a good shake, put the lid on firmly then cook over a high heat for about 3 minutes shaking the pan a couple of times. Take off the lid and check that the mussels are open. If not replace the lid and cook another minute. As soon as they’re cooked remove the mussels from their shells and set aside. Strain the cooking liquor and measure out 150ml (5 fl oz). Then take another 2 tbsp and soak the saffron strands in a small bowl.
Thoroughly clean and finely chop the leek into rounds. Heat the butter slowly in a heavy bottomed pan then cook the leek for 10-15 minutes or until soft. Add the flour, stir and cook for a minute then add the reserved mussel liquor, bring to the boil, stirring and simmer for 5 minutes until thick. Strain and add the infused saffron water and the cream. Stir, then tip in the mussels and heat through for 2-3 minutes. Check the seasoning adding freshly ground pepper and a little salt to taste.
Place a square of pastry on each plate then spoon over the mussel mixture, dividing it evenly between each plate. Finely scissor snip some parsley over each plate and serve immediately.
Suggested wine match: a lightly oaked Chardonnay or Viognier
3 light olive oil or sunflower oil
900g (2 lb) venison sausages
For the gravy
2 tbsp light olive oil or sunflower oil
25g (1 oz) butter
3 medium red onions, peeled and finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 rounded tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 rounded tbsp tomato paste
2 level tbsp plain flour
250ml (9 fl oz) full bodied red wine
250ml (9 fl oz) fresh beef stock or stock made with half an organic beef stock cube
Salt, freshly ground black pepper and tomato ketchup to taste
First put on the gravy. Put a large saucepan over a moderate heat, add the oil and then the butter. When the butter has melted tip in the onions, stir thoroughly then put the lid on the pan and cook on a low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 15-20 minutes until the onions are soft and golden.
Stir in the garlic and rosemary, cook for a few seconds then stir in the tomato paste and flour. Add the red wine and stock, bring to the boil then turn the heat right down and simmer for 15-20 minutes, adding a little water if it gets too thick.
Meanwhile heat a large frying pan (or two smaller ones), add the remaining oil and fry the sausages over a low heat, turning them frequently. These should also take about 20 minutes.
Check the seasoning of the gravy, adding salt and pepper to taste and a little tomato ketchup if you think it needs sweetening. (Yes, really! Serve the sausages with the gravy spooned over.
Suggested wine match: Any robust full-bodied red will do. I'd probably go for a Syrah or Shiraz just as I would for haggis.
1 bulb of celeriac (about 500-600g/1lb 2oz-1lb 5oz)
A couple of pieces of lemon peel
500g-600g/1lb 2oz-1lb 5oz boiling potatoes (e.g. King Edwards)
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 heaped tbsp crème fraîche
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Give the celeriac a good scrub then cut off the tough outer skin. The easiest way to do this is to prop it on a chopping board and cut downwards with a sharp knife. Once you’ve got most of the skin off, cut it in quarters then hold one in your hand and cut off any remaining bits of skin with a small knife. Cut into large cubes, put in a saucepan with a couple of bits of lemon peel and cover with boiling water. When it comes to the boil add salt then cook for about 15-20 minutes until soft. Drain well, reserving a little of the cooking water.
Peel the potatoes and cut them into equal sized pieces. Cover with cold water, bring to the boil, add salt and cook until you can stick a knife through them without any resistance. Drain thoroughly and return to the pan to dry. Put the celeriac in a food processor and whizz until smooth, adding a little of the cooking water if it seems too dry and lumpy.Cut the potato into rough chunks then mash with a fork or potato masher until smooth. Add the olive oil and creme fraiche and beat well. Tip the pureed celeriac into the potato mash, mix well and season generously with salt and pepper.
1 medium swede (about 500-550g) peeled and cut into small cubes
3 medium carrots (about 250-275g), peeled and sliced
1 litre hot vegetable stock made with 1 tbsp vegetable bouillon powder or a vegetable stock cube
1 tbsp low fat creme fraiche
Freshly ground black pepper + a little grated nutmeg
Salt and lemon juice to taste
Put the cubed swede and carrot in a medium sized saucepan and cover with the hot vegetable stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Strain, reserving the cooking water and put the vegetables in a food processor. Whizz them until smooth. Add the butter, creme fraiche and 1-2 tbsp of the vegetable cooking water and whizz again until smooth and silky. Season with plenty of black pepper, a little nutmeg and salt and/or lemon juice to taste. Reheat gently and serve.
100g (3 1/2 oz) dried figs
125g (4 1/2 oz) mixed dried fruit
100g (3 1/2 oz) large seedless raisins
2 tbsp whisky
250g (9 oz) two day old bread from a traditional style loaf
300ml (10 fl oz) full cream milk
1 medium (125g) eating apple (Cox’s are ideal)
The grated rind of half a lemon
2 tbsp coarse cut seville orange marmalade
75g (3 oz) light vegetable suet
2 tsp mixed spice
50g (2 oz) soft dark brown sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
A little grated nutmeg
For the whisky sauce
25g (1 oz) butter
60g (2 1/2 oz) soft dark brown sugar
3-4 tbsp whisky
142 ml (5 fl oz) whipping cream
Chop or scissor-snip the figs into small pieces and place in a bowl with the mixed dried fruit and raisins. Pour over 2 tbsp of whisky, stir well and put to one side. Crumble the bread into another large bowl and pour over the milk. Mix thoroughly and leave to soak for 30 minutes.
Peel and core the apple and grate roughly into the dried fruit. Add the finely grated lemon rind and marmalade and stir well. Mash the bread mixture vigorously with a fork to break down any lumps then add the fruit mixture, suet, mixed spice and sugar. Stir well, add the beaten egg and stir again. Turn into a lightly greased square 12.5 by 12.5cm (7 x 7 inch) baking tin, smooth the top and grate over a little nutmeg. Bake the bread pudding in a preheated oven ( 180° C/350° F/Gas 4) for 1 1/2 hours or until the top is nicely browned.
Just before serving gently warm the butter and sugar for the sauce in a small heavy bottomed saucepan. When the sugar has dissolved add the whisky and cream and bring to a slow simmer. Cook for about five minutes until the sauce begins to thicken. Cut the bread pudding into chunks, pour over the whisky sauce and serve.
Suggested wine match: Well if you're going to drink anything I'd make it whisky rather than wine but with the rich whisky-laced sauce I'm not sure you need it!