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Burns Night 2005

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25 January 2005 is Burns night. It may be cold and wet outside but inside Scots will be celebrating the birth of the poet Robbie Burns.

So what are the ingredients of a successful Burns Supper? Scotch whisky (for the many toasts) and an excellent haggis are essential. We'll leave the whisky to you. two of the best Haggis we have tried are from Findlay's of Portobello , who are based in Edinburgh and Donald Russell Direct ,

Speakers are a key element: it's important that the Address to the Haggis, the Immortal Memory and the various toasts and poems are all delivered with just the right degree of theatricality to get across the drama, earthiness and humour of Burns's verse.

Burns' Suppers tend to follow a set pattern. The evening really starts when the freshly cooked haggis is brought from the kitchen with due ceremony (often accompanied by a piper at grander events). The main speaker then cuts the steaming haggis open with a flourish as he or she recites the Address, singing its praises using Burns' own words:

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face
Great chieftain o' the puddin' race!
Abune them a' ye tak your place
Painch, tripe or thairm:
Weel are ye worthy o' a grace
As lang's ma airm?

The haggis toasted by all and served with its traditional accompaniments, tatties and bashed neeps (otherwise known as mashed potato and turnip). It may have R Burns Esq turning in his grave but a slice of blue cheese melted into the haggis filling tastes superb. Simple food it may be but done well, it tastes fantastic.

The main entertainment gets underway after the meal with the different speeches and recitals: the Immortal Memory of Robert Burns, the Toast to the Lassies and their Reply (where male and female speakers take turns to poke gentle fun at the opposite sex using the many examples in Burns' verse). It's traditional to end the evening with the bard's great song of parting, Auld Lang Syne.

Haggis can be excellent, what better time to set aside those misgivings and give it a try?

BBC Scotland

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