By Franz Scheurer
Robert Burns (1759-1796) is Scotland’s favourite son and poet. In his short life he fathered 9 children with his wife, Jean Armour, and amongst many other works he wrote the poems ‘Tam O’Shanter’, ‘To A Mouse’ and ‘To A Haggis’, the first of Burns’ poems to be published in a periodical (Edinburgh’s Caledonian Mercury). He also composed songs, the best-known being Auld Lang Syne, now sung worldwide at the end of the year. After his death, his closest friends decided to commemorate their favourite bard with a gathering on his birthday, the 25th January, which became known as Burns Night.
This year the talented crew at Alchemy 731 decided to put on a Burns Supper, and even rang friends in Scotland to fine-tune their recipes. Eventually the piper was hired, the haggis was made and they approached me to match a whisky with each course. I also concocted a cocktail for the occasion and named it: Boidheach Boreannach (pron. Boyach Boranach), which means ‘Beautiful Girl’ in Gaelic.
Here’s the recipe:
Boidheach Boreannach ( © Franz Scheurer)
Juice of 1 lime
Equal quantities of whisky (I use Glenkeith 10 y/o) and Amaretto to make up the same volume as the limejuice.
Serve over lots of ice.
The Boidheach Boreannach was served on arrival then after the reciting of the Selkirk Grace we had Cullen Skink, a wonderfully creamy fish soup with the Balvenie Double Wood 12 y/o. This proved to be a fantastic match with the saltiness of the soup contrasting perfectly with the sweetness of the whisky and the smooth texture of both complementing each other. Then we had a Longrow 10 y/o with ‘Roast Pigeon Breast with Pearl Barley’. The pigeon was rare and perfectly rested and the barley added a textural element that was very moreish. The piper, who had been playing downstairs, now joined us on the first floor. He piped in the haggis, which was carried by proud ‘fathers’ Keith Cawthorne and Derek Baker (the chefs), and, after Ian Black’s masterfully orated the address to the haggis, we had the privilege of eating the best haggis I have ever tasted in Australia (just as well there were seconds!). Served with neeps (parsnips) and tatties (potatoes) and accompanied by an Ardbeg 10 y/o it was utter bliss and a marriage made in gastro-heaven. By now the conversation around the room was rather animated and the utterly politically incorrect and very funny ‘Toast to the Lassies’ by Ian Foy was enjoyed in the spirit of the night by the ladies present. A pre-dessert of ‘Whisky and Orange Jelly’ matched to a Glenfiddich 18 y/o Ancient Reserve cleansed and readjusted our palates and the Glenfiddich was particularly smooth and complex. The evening ended with the traditional dessert ‘Cranachen’ (a combination of whisky, cream, oats, honey and raspberries) with the very elegant and eminently approachable Glenfarclas 21 y/o. All the matches worked very well and it is almost impossible to single one out. However, after consulting all the guests, I would agree that the Cullen Skink and the Balvenie Double Wood 12 y/o probably stole the show. What a fantastic combination!
This was a truly memorable night in the spirit of Robert Burns, with great food and some very special drams. Let’s hope we can do it again next year!
I would like to thank Bronwyn Kabboord, front of house, Neil our fabulous waiter and the kitchen team with Keith and Derek in command for their efforts. I would also like to thank Maxxium for their generosity in providing the Balvenie and the Glenfiddich and Moët Hennessy for providing the Ardbeg. Thanks, guys!
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Mosman NSW 2088
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And for the ones who don’t know it, here is Burns ‘To a Haggis’:
To a Haggis
Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang's my arm.
The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o need,
While thro your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.
His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An cut you up wi ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
The auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect sconner,
Looks down wi sneering, scornfu view
On sic a dinner?
Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither'd rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit:
Thro bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll make it whissle;
An legs an arms, an heads will sned,
Like taps o thrissle.
Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer,
Gie her a Haggis