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Burns Night: Five top tips for hosting the perfect haggis dinner

Time to don your tartan 

Rachel Hosie
Thursday 25 January 2024 11:22 GMT
Who was Robert Burns?

Burns Night, the annual celebration of the life and enduring legacy of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, is upon us.

Whether you’re Scottish or not, hosting or attending a Burns Supper is a lot of fun.

Who wouldn’t want to dress in their finest tartan, listen to bagpipes and fill themselves to the brim with hearty grub?

The classic Burns Night meal is haggis, neeps and tatties. For anyone unfamiliar with those three words though, allow us to explain.

Haggis is a savoury pudding made of sheep’s heart, liver and lungs, which is minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, stock and a mix of spices. Neeps are swedes and tatties are potatoes.

To make sure your Burns Night goes off without a hitch, we’ve spoken to haggis producer James Macsween (managing director of Macsween haggis) for his top tips.

1. Cater for everyone

While vegetarians might run a mile from traditional haggis, they needn’t miss out on the fun. “When hosting a Burns Supper, guests should be able to enjoy the traditional food no matter what their dietary requirements,” Macsween says.

There are plenty of great vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free haggises available today, often made with a lentil base, and thanks to the spices used they’re as taste as meaty haggis too.

2. Consider straying from tradition

If you’re bored of haggis, neeps and tatties, why not put your own twist on the classic?

“If you are looking to steer away from tradition and try something a little different, haggis nachos or haggis sausage rolls are just a couple of alternative ways that haggis can be incorporated into the celebrations,” Macsween suggests.

Haggis nachos (iStock/Getty)

3. But don’t forget to address the haggis

“It’s not really Burns Night without the ‘Address to the Haggis’,” Macsween says. “Robert Burns’ Address is the perfect way to get everyone in the spirit.”

You absolutely must not tuck in without toasting the haggis – see Robert Burns’ original address here.

“An enthusiastic spokesperson at the supper is of key importance to bring Robert Burns’ words to life and create a celebratory atmosphere,” Macsween says.

4. Think about your drink pairings

Think Scotland and think whisky, right? While it might be the presumed drink of choice for a Burns Supper, it can be worth thinking outside the box.

“In truth, haggis pairs wonderfully with beer and wine as well,” Macsween explains. “A good hoppy beer is one of my favourites with haggis.”

5. Choose your music carefully

“If you want to make it a real party, then music should be a top priority to help enhance the atmosphere,” Macsween points out.

Head to Spotify and you won’t be short of choice when it comes to Burns Night playlists.

“You can keep it classic with strictly Rabbie Burns’ own songs or you can celebrate everything Scottish, with The Proclaimers and Eddi Reader, to name a couple,” Macsween suggests.

You might just have to bear in mind how long your guests will be able to handle bagpipes.

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