How to prepare for the Traditional Burns Supper

What is Burns Night?

We Scots love our cultural traditions and Burns Night is no different. Burns Night marks the anniversary of Scots poet Robert Burns birth date. The famous Scot is celebrated on 25th January each year with many people marking the occasion by attending a Burns Supper.

There are Burns Suppers held all over the world to celebrate the life and works of the bard. Most following the traditional structure of poetry readings, Scots food and a ceilidh dance.

What is a Burns Supper

How did Burns Suppers start?

Following the death of Robert Burns, his close friends decided to get together to mark the fifth anniversary of the death of their friend. It was held in July 1801 in Burns Cottage in Alloway. The friends ate haggis, enjoyed drams of whisky, performed some of his works and made speeches honouring the poet, this speech is now known as the Immortal Memory. The night was highly successful and continued to be a tradition up until this day.

What happens at a Burns Supper?

Each Burns Supper has different traditions and sections to it, but most follow this basic structure. At the start of the evening usually people with gather for an introductory drink, attendees will then take to their seats and the host will say a few words and Selkirk Grace is said.

The starter is served, which is quite often a Cock-a-Leekie or Cullen Skink soup. Then the main event, the haggis, is piped in. The host will then perform the famous Address to a Haggis and everyone toasts the haggis before it being served up with ‘neeps and tatties. The following dessert is usually a Scots delicacy like Cranachan.

Following the meal, works of poetry are performed. Most notably the main tribute to Robert and his life, the Immortal Memory, the Toast to the Lassies and the Reply to the Toast to the Lassies.

To conclude the night attendees are thanked by the host and will then stand, join hands and sing Auld Lang Syne. Auld Lang Syne is without doubt Robert Burns most famous work and is sung across the world, usually at the bells of New Year.

How to make a Burns Supper?

burns supper: cullen skink

Cullen Skink


  • 300g smoked haddock
  • 25g butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 large leek, chopped, rinsed and drained
  • 300g floury potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 750ml chicken stock
  • 150ml double cream
  • ground white pepper
  • chives, chopped to make 2 tbsp
  • flat-leaf parsley, chopped to make 2 tbsp


  1. Put the smoked haddock in a baking dish and pour over a kettle full of just-boiled water. Cover and leave for 15 minutes, then scoop out and drain on kitchen paper. Remove any skin and flake the flesh into large chunks, discarding any bones as you go.
  2. Melt the butter in a large pan then cook the onion and leek for 15-20 minutes or until really soft. Add the potatoes and cook in the butter for a minute, then pour in the stock and bring to a simmer. Cook until the potatoes are tender, then use a masher to roughly crush a third of the potatoes in the pan. Stir in the cream, haddock chunks and season with salt and white pepper. Bring back to a simmer for 2-3 minutes or until the fish is heated through, then stir in the chives and parsley before serving in warm bowls.
burns supper

Haggis, ‘Neeps and Tatties


  • 750g -800g good quality haggis
  • 800g potatoes
  • 800g swede
  • Milk and butter for mashing

For the whisky cream sauce (optional)

  • 4 shallots (finely chopped)
  • 300ml double cream
  • 100ml good whisky
  • Knob of butter


  1. Cook the haggis as per the maker guidelines. Most will recommend that you remove the outer packaging, wrap the haggis in foil and place in a dish of water in the oven however it is also suitable to be microwaved.
  2. Peel and dice the potatoes and swede and cook separately until both are soft. Mash the potatoes with milk, butter, and seasoning. Do the same with the swede but without the milk.
  3. For the whisky sauce, should you wish to include it, first start by softening the shallots in the butter in a large saucepan.
  4. Add the whisky and turn up the heat to burn off the alcohol, this won’t take long and will avoid any bitterness. Reduce the heat and stir in the cream. Allow to simmer for a couple of minutes.
  5. Serve the haggis on a plate alongside the side dishes and have the whisky sauce on the side, to give people the option of pouring over their plate.
burns supper cranachan



  • 75g oats
  • 500ml double cream
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 5 tbsp whisky
  • 400g raspberries
  • 2 tbsp runny honey


  1. Toast the oats in a dry frying pan over a medium heat, tossing regularly, until golden. Leave to cool.
  2. Pour the double cream into a bowl with the icing sugar and whip with electric beaters until it holds soft peaks. Add the whisky and beat briefly to combine, then fold in three-quarters of the raspberries and the same of the toasted oats. Divide between six glasses or dishes, then top with remaining raspberries and oats before drizzling over the honey.

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