A Burns Night menu


As we toast Rabbie Burns with a dram or two of something strong, our Head Chef Stewart Turner cooks up the perfect menu to soak up the spirits – a haggis toastie and cock-a-leekie soup

As Burns Night approaches my attention turns to the mighty haggis. Robert Burns, though known the world over as Scotland’s national poet, was born into a poor farming family in Ayrshire rather than the Georgian gentry. Using his wit and intelligence, he found himself at many a wealthy table eating the finest of foods. However, as his poetry suggests, he preferred and identified with the “homely” fare of the peasant, referring to it in rhyme and song – even elevating the humble haggis, a thrifty peasant pudding, to legendary status simply by writing an ode.

Historically haggis was a way of preserving perishable offal, quickly cooking it inside an animal’s stomach, which was all conveniently available after a hunt. Although this description may not be that appealing, it has a fantastic savoury flavour with a lovely peppery note and an excellent nutty texture.

It must be said that haggis is not just for Burns Night: it’s a fantastically versatile ingredient, and works well with wine. Cheddar scones, sausage rolls and dumplings are all dishes that have been enhanced with haggis and featured on our past menus – as has this recipe for a haggis toastie. We had it on our winter menus last year, paired with a loin of venison. For this recipe I’ve paired it with another Scottish classic, cock-a-leekie. In essence the toastie is a croque monsieur with a thick white sauce used to bind the haggis and cheese, then pan-fried in clarified butter. It’s beautifully decadent.

Cock-a-leekie soup and haggis toastie Serves 6
  • 6 chicken legs
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 springs of rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 onion – chopped
  • 2 leeks – sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic – sliced
  • 12 prunes – chopped
  • 2 sprigs of thyme – chopped
  • 1 bay leaf – chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parsley and chives – chopped

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Place the chicken pieces in a roasting tray and drizzle with a little olive oil Roast for around 30 minutes, or until cooked and the meat comes away easily from the bone. Set aside to cool.

Place the chicken stock with a couple of sprigs of thyme, rosemary and two bay leaves into a pan and simmer gently. Once cool enough to handle, pick the chicken from the bone. Tear the chicken into large chunks and set aside. Return the skin to the oven for five minutes to crisp. Place the bones in the stock and simmer gently for 30 minutes to infuse.

In another pan, lightly sweat the leeks, onions and sliced garlic until just soft. Strain the infused chicken stock into the pan with the leek mixture, bring to the boil and season to taste. Mix in the flaked chicken, prunes and chopped herbs. Serve with the haggis toasties and crispy chicken skin.

Haggis toastie

  • 6 slices of bread (ideally white)
  • 200g haggis – crumbled
  • 100g cheddar
  • 2 tbsp thick béchamel
  • 1 tsp grain mustard
  • 1 tbsp chives – chopped
  • 3 tsbp clarified butter

Warm the béchamel, just to soften it and then fold in with the other ingredients. Spread this mixture thickly on three slices of bread and top each one with another slice. You can cook in a sandwich maker if you have one; just butter the outside of the sandwich with soft butter and cook for about three minutes until golden. Otherwise pan-fry in a frying pan in the clarified butter for about two minutes on each side, until golden. Allow to cool slightly before serving. Remove the crusts and cut into rectangles to serve.