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Celtic Cookery: The Haggis & Burn's Supper

The haggis is a traditional Scottish dish memorialised as the national dish of Scotland by Robert Burns' poem Address to a Haggis in 1787. Haggis is traditionally served with "neeps and tatties" (Scots: swede, yellow turnip or rutabaga and potatoes boiled and mashed separately) and a "dram" (i.e. a glass of Scotch whisky), especially as the main course of a Burns Supper. However it is also often eaten with other accompaniments, or served with a whisky-based sauce.

It is a dish containing sheep's 'pluck' (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally simmered in the animal's stomach for approximately three hours.

The annual celebratory tribute to the life, works and spirit of the great Scottish poet, Robert Burns (1759-1796) is often called Burn's Night or Supper . Celebrated on, or about, the Bard's birthday, January 25th, Burns Suppers range from stentoriously formal gatherings of esthetes and scholars to uproariously informal rave-ups of drunkards and louts. Most Burns Suppers fall in the middle of this range, and adhere, more or less, to some sort of time honoured form which includes the eating of a traditional Scottish meal, the drinking of Scotch whisky, and the recitation of works by, about, and in the spirit of the Bard.

The first suppers were held in Ayrshire at the end of the 18th century by Robert Burns' friends on the anniversary of his death, 21 July, In Memoriam and they have been a regular occurrence ever since. The first Burns club, known as The Mother Club, was founded in Greenock in 1801 by merchants born in Ayrshire, some of whom had known Burns. They held the first Burns Supper on what they thought was his birthday on 29 January 1802, but in 1803 discovered from the Ayr parish records that the correct date was 25 January 1759,[1] and since then suppers have been held to 25 January, Burns' birthday.

A whisky toast will be proposed to the haggis, then the company will sit and enjoy the meal. The main course is haggis, and is traditionally served with mashed potatoes (tatties) and mashed neeps. A dessert course, cheese courses, coffee, etc. may also be part of the meal. The courses normally use traditional Scottish recipes. For instance dessert may be cranachan or Tipsy Laird (sherry trifle) followed by oatcakes and cheese, all washed down with the "water of life" (uisge beatha) – Scotch whisky.

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