Part of life as an Expat is putting yourself out there. Easy for a Scot, challenging for the reserved English. It is a moment where my Scottish and English heritage battle it out and this time, Scotland won. Last thursday, in an effort to meet new people and have a good time, I bustled along to the Special Burns’ Ceilidh Night organised by Scottish Country Dancing in Brussels that I found on MeetUp. It was great fun and a fantastic way to meet new people of all ages and background. We danced for two hours straight.
My legs were exhausted the next day but I was full of Scottish spirit and ready to host my first Burn’s Supper. Being half-scottish, Burn’s Night is an annual celebration for my family and one that I have enjoyed with friends over the years. Just because I was in Brussels this year, I was not going to miss out.
James invited some colleagues and asked them to bring along a friend. It was a great way to get to know his colleagues and meet new people. We were 9 in total, which was perfect as we do not have enough bowls/plates or cutlery for any more.
Cooking the main meal was actually very simple but James decided he wanted Smoked Salmon Bellinis, followed by leek & potato soup, then the Haggis followed by Eton Mess (as neither of us love Cranachan) and cheese.
I prepared my turnips (neeps) and potatoes (tatties) earlier in the day. I had to YouTube how to chop & peel a turnip.
Then it was time for the Haggis. He was so big we had to chop him in half and cook him in two pans. My mum gave me her Haggis cooking tips, which were in short: dry fry until it looks cooked, then turn the heat up and mix in some Whiskey and she warned whatever you do, do not burn the Haggis or it is ruined. Slightly anxious I began. FYI: Mum forgot to mention that the outside of the haggis is just fat and you do not cook that. I worked it out for myself *genius* but word of warning: it is really gross and slimy and I wished I had worn gloves.
With no idea how long it should take to cook, I embarked on the adventure. I did not bother to time the haggis but you could tell it was cooking as the colour and texture slightly changed. Then I flared the heat up and poured in the Whiskey, which was great fun. Once cooked, I took it off the heat and allowed it to rest wrapped up in tin foil and then warmed it up just before serving with the neeps & tatties.
Salmon Bellinis’ drizled in Lemon: a little amuse bouche.
Then it was time for the traditional Scottish Selkirk Grace:
- Some hae meat and canna eat,
- And some wad eat that want it,
- But we hae meat and we can eat,
- Sae let the Lord be thankit.
The Selkirk Grace, is a prayer said afore eatin that’s attreebute tae Robert Burns.
We had homemade Leek & Potato soup for starter. Traditionally, Burn’s Supper starts with a potato based soup, often Cullen Skink. Seeing as I have only been cooking for three weeks, Cullen Skink seemed a step too adventurous for me.
I was worried the Belgian’s were not going to like my very British soup (that hails from Wales) but they loved it.
The Address to the Haggis: Everyone had a go at reading a paragraph each, which was hilarious. We had a Scot to lead the address, followed by the Belgians, an Englishman, a Hungarian and a Canadian.
Everyone ate it all. I could not believe it. I felt triumphant. I am a Scot, well 50%, perhaps my culinary part. The English part definately won over the accent.
In true Burn’s style, everything was toasted too with a shot glass full of Whiskey, so we were well lubricated to dance the night away. I was having so much fun, I almost forgot to serve the desert. In an effort to make it Scottish, I served the Eton Mess with Walker’s Scottish Shortbread.
We put out some Scottish Cheddar and Brie accompanied by very British biscuits – Carr’s Water Biscuits and Jacob’s Cream Crackers – which were demolished.
The next day we were totally Burn-T out.