Lest We Forget Robbie Burns

By Susan Hallett Created: January 21, 2013 Last Updated: January 21, 2013
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Haggis, neeps (turnips), and tatties (potatoes) are traditionally eaten in Scotland on the anniversary of Robert Burns’ birthday on Jan. 25. (Bridget McGill/

Haggis, neeps (turnips), and tatties (potatoes) are traditionally eaten in Scotland on the anniversary of Robert Burns’ birthday on Jan. 25. (Bridget McGill/

Robbie Burns, Scotland’s famous 18th century poet, gained fame for publishing “Poems Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect” to raise funds to immigrate to Jamaica. The book was so successful he moved to Edinburgh instead, where he enjoyed the literary and social life to the fullest.

Burns wrote over 300 songs, all set to traditional Scottish airs. Two of the most famous are “Auld Lang Syne” and “Flow Gently, Sweet Afton.”

Dishes served in memory of Burns

In an undated booklet printed years ago by William Hodge & Co. Ltd. of Glasgow can be found old-time Scottish recipes served in many homes around the world in memory of Burns.

All the recipes in the booklet were provided by the Scottish Women’s Rural Institutes. Here are three in honour of the anniversary of the Ploughman Poet’s birthday on Jan. 25: Scotch broth, pan haggis, and Pitcaithly bannock.

Scotch broth

56 g (2 oz) split peas
56 – 85 g (2 to 3 oz) barley
2 L (4 pints) cold water
Pieces of beef and mutton
1 large carrot
1 turnip
1/2 head of cabbage
1 or 2 leeks
Salt and pepper

If using dried peas, wash and soak overnight. Wash barley and along with peas put on to boil with cold water for an hour. Add meat, diced carrot and turnip, and chopped cabbage and leeks. Simmer for about an hour, or until meat is tender. If using fresh peas (or frozen), add about 10 minutes before soup is ready. Add finely chopped parsley and seasoning just before serving.

Pan haggis

For this you do not need a sheep’s stomach!

250 g (1/2 lb) liver
1 large onion
250 mL (1 cup) water
1 teacup oatmeal
125 g (1/4 lb) chopped suet or butter
Seasoning to taste (salt and pepper were traditional)

Boil the liver and onion in water for 40 minutes. Pour the liver liquid into a bowl. When the liver is cold, grate it. Finely chop the onion, and mix with the liver. Brown the oatmeal carefully in a buttered pan, and mix with the liver, onion, suet and seasoning. Moisten with some of the liver liquid. Stew slowly for about an hour and a half. Serve hot.

Pitcaithly bannock

28 g (1 oz) almonds
28 g (1 oz) candied peel
170 g (6 oz) flour
28 g (1 oz) rice flour
85 g (3 oz) sugar
113 g (4 oz) butter

Blanch and chop the almonds. Shred and chop the peel finely. Sift the flour, rice flour, and sugar, add butter and work in all ingredients to the consistency of short crust pastry. Form into a round cake. Place on a greased and prepared baking tray, prick well, and bake in a moderate oven until it begins to colour. Reduce heat and allow to crisp slowly in a cool oven for about an hour.

Susan Hallett is an award-winning writer and editor who has written for The Beaver, The Globe & Mail, Wine Tidings and Doctor’s Review among many others. Email:

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