This weekend sees the arrival of the traditional Burns
supper and even as I write this on the eve of the main event, whisky
societies and enthusiasts are marking the occasion. I thought I’d do the same
here, particularly for those outside of Scotland who might seem a little mystified
by the whole celebration of a long deceased poet.
Being schooled in Scotland you are introduced to the work of
Robert Burns at a young age and the striking drawings that bring new life to
the dialect thick text. Most households mark the evening with a haggis
accompanied by some neeps (swede also known as turnip) and tatties (potatoes). These dominate
the supermarket prime spots and include vegetarian haggis. The whisky is optional as is the piper to usher in the haggis – it’s all
a little bit of theatre.
Now haggis isn’t available in every country and I realise
some turn their noses up at the contents however it comes from an era when
nothing was wasted from the beast. If anything we should be doing more of this
in this age of austerity. I’ve found over the decades that haggis is very much
like macaroni cheese, black pudding, spaghetti Bolognese etc. in the fact that
everyone has a different variation of the main recipe that makes their offering allegedly
the best. Our favourite haggis is made by Cockburn’s of Dingwall, which is just
north of Inverness. They have a website which is here and it offers the option to
buy online. A tremendous example of haggis, it’s well worth experiencing and I’m
sure I’ve seen it on sale in London at Borough Market.
We source the tatties and neeps from a local farm
up the road to round off the dish. These are mashed, seasoned and served
alongside the haggis, which remains the star of the evening. A nice
accompaniment to the whole experience is a luxurious whisky sauce that brings
everything together and can be used on other meats such as chicken and steak. Yeah,
there had to be a whisky theme to this!
I’d encourage you to give this a try and it almost brings
out another staple of the whisky cupboard; my home blend. This concoction is a spiralling and unstoppable blend which is topped up whenever I’m struggling
to finish another whisky or near the bottom of a bottle. So it has a very high
malt content and is tasted now and again for its flavour profile. In this world
even bad whiskies shouldn’t be flushed away and can enjoy a new lease of life
in such a bottle. If you go through a great quantity of whisky then in theory you could keep home blends for different regions or preferred characteristics.
|My whisky blend|
The recipe I use is the Witchery whisky sauce that you can view here. What I will say is that I don’t bother using the same pan, as
the steak itself preferring to start with a fresh pan. If you’re making the sauce
for a steak, then you can add the juices later if you wish. I’d also recommend adding
the honey which does give the sauce a lush finish. I've never bothered with the shallots or parsley that some variations offer. I've even on occasion made it without the mushrooms but it is upon reflection better with the fungai involved. Colour can be used as a guide as you reduce the sauce to the desired consistency.
How much to make? Well, a little does go along way and I’m
always driven by the size of the cream pot I’ve purchased as part of the recipe.
If the pot is 300ml then this drives the ratios of the other components in
the recipe - otherwise the cream will go to waste. I always add more green
peppercorns initially than suggested and then take my time on the hob, as the
haggis takes a while to cook in the oven. Always taste the sauce at the end before adding any seasoning - quite often it doesn't require any salt or pepper.
The final piece in the jigsaw if you don’t have a bottle of
house blend on the go like myself, is the whisky. Experiment with the ratio as
you may like more oomph or a little less. Consider the taste profile the whisky
brings to the table. Do you want a smoky whisky particularly if you are
on the barbeque or even grilling, or just fancy a subtle sweet delight? The famous blends are
perfect for sauces but don’t let the whisky snobs put you off from trying a
single malt in the recipe. I quite like a Deanston with its sweetness and
vanilla freshness or a Balmenach. Putting whatever whisky in this sauce will take
it to another level!
At the end of it all replenish your home blend - this time around I added the remnants of my Mortlach Rare Old release, as frankly it isn't rare or old!
Labels: burns, recipe, whisky sauce, witchery whisky sauce