I love being challenged to make something new. It might not always go to plan, but I always learn something along the way, and it’s always fun. So, with Burns Night last week, I was challenged to create a Scottish feast for a few friends as part of Travelodge's #TravelodgeFoodies and threw myself into coming up with Cock-A-Leekie soup, Neeps and Tatties, Cranachan and of course... Haggis.
When you’re cooking a three course dinner, the key is preparation. There’s nothing worse than people showing up to see you still in your work clothes, red in the face and stressed, with two courses left to cook. And this was the most relaxing dinner party meal to cook ever – so by the time my buddies showed up, I was on my second glass of red wine and ready to dish up. I mean, I was still red in the face, but that’s because our tiny kitchen is hotter than the sun when the gas oven is on.
I combined the recipes from here and here to create a MONSTER recipe, which I’ll post below if you want to try it. Key here was slow-cooking it – I quickly realised that I didn’t have time to mess around with anything more complicated. So, I popped all the ingredients in the slow cooker the night before, got some chicken breasts out the freezer to thaw, then in the morning chucked them in the slow cooker, turned it on and went to work. When I came home, all I needed to do was transfer the contents of the slow cooker to a wok, and left it to simmer and reduce while I got on with everything else. It was so yummy. Lemon peel is a revelation – it gave it a lovely lemony flavour, but no one ended up with an unwanted mouthful of pith. Nom.
Haggis with Neeps and Tatties
I followed the recipe from here for Neeps and Tatties to the letter, and it was a great one. Brilliantly, they recommend cooking them the night before – so on the evening of your dinner party, all you need to do is get them out the fridge, dot with butter and pop in the oven. So easy. I usually don’t like swedes much, but this method made them super sweet and flavoursome.
The haggis was a straightforward dump-in-the-oven job, but it worked a treat. I popped it in a covered casserole dish to keep warm in the oven while we ate our starters, then placed it on the table with the Neeps and Tatties dish for everyone to serve themselves. Yummy – but I must confess, I wanted something green on my plate too, as it’s a very rich, dense meal. But green stuff isn’t really in the spirit of Burns Night, I spose.
Do you guys know what Cranachan is? No? You’re going to want to. Whipped cream with whisky and honey stirred into it, layered with raspberries and topped with toasted oats. It’s decadent and brilliant and incredibly easy to make – I threw it together in about 20 minutes when I got home from work, and popped it in the fridge until ready to serve. Again, BBC Good Food's recipes to the rescue!
It was an excellent feast, served with lashings of red wine and whisky. I might not have any Scottish in me that I know about, but it’s tempting to make Burns Night an annual tradition. Who’s coming next year?
Slow Cooker Cock-a-Leekie Soup
This twist on a Scottish classic is full of flavour and easy to make. Don’t just wait for Burns Night – it’s lovely all year round!
4 chicken breasts
250g smoked bacon lardons
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
1-2 leeks, chopped into thick rounds (whites only)
2 bay leaves
½ bunch thyme sprigs
2 inches lemon peel
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 chicken stock cube
15-20 stoned prunes
Good quality bread, to serve
1. Add all the ingredients except the prunes to the slow cooker, then pour water over it until everything is just about covered. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
2. Shred the chicken breasts with two forks and stir everything well.
3. Carefully transfer the contents of the slow cooker to a large pan or wok, add the prunes, then simmer on a medium heat for approximately 30 minutes until the liquid has reduced and the soup resembles more of a stew (note: mine is slightly over reduced!).
4. Add any salt and pepper if you feel it needs further seasoning.
5. Remove the bay leaves and serve.
Note: If you want to make the soup more substantial, you can add barley at the simmering stage.
Disclaimer: Travelodge kindly supplied the ingredients for these recipes.