Strangely dressed people descended on my house recently. The intention was to honour the Scottish poet Robbie Burns. Burns Day is actually the 25th of January but we pre-empted it by a few days.
A varied selection of friends and neighbours settled down to what I believe was an enjoyable evening. The evening started with everyone being divided into Clans - McDonalds, Campbells, Stewarts etc. They then had to find the other members of their clan before settling down to complete a light hearted (but difficult!) quiz on Burns.
When everyone was relaxed it was time for the traditional supper. First the haggis had to be addressed
'Great Chiefton o' the Puddin' Race' and ceremonially cut. We didn't have any bagpipes in which to 'pipe in' the haggis, but no one seemed to notice!
The traditional supper is cock a' leekie soup, followed by haggis, neeps (mashed swedes) and tatties (mashed potatoes). A wee dram (whisky) is used as the haggis' gravy.
Desserts for us were a choice of lemon mousse cake or apple crumble.
After everyone was well sated we sat down to a sing song. We did sing a few of Burn's classic songs but soon went on to old favourites including 'Dirty Old Town', 'Leaving of Liverpool' and 'If I Could Walk 500 Miles' amongst them. We were lucky to have a friend who played his guitar to accompany the singing.
Surprisingly one of the highlights of the night was a box of Tunnock's teacakes.
Cries of 'I haven't had one of these since I was a child.' were heard constantly. As you can see the box was practically emptied.
I made the soup from scratch borrowing a friend's jelly/jam pan which was the only thing big enough for the quantities I needed (nearly 30 people).
The recipe I used was an old one and everyone commented on how good it was. So, just in case you're thinking of having your supper on the actual date. Here is a good, traditional soup. I just hope you're not making it for as many people. I can't tell you what my five year old granddaughter said it looked like (it was very green).
In metric and old money!
Cock-A- Leekie Soup (serves 8)
1 1.5kg/3lb fresh chicken
2.25 ltrs/4 pints water (10 cups)
1 kg/2lb leeks (washed and sliced)
50g/2 oz pearl barley (rinsed) (1/4 cup)
salt and pepper to taste.
Put the chicken, water and 1/4 leeks in a pan and bring to boil, cover and simmer for 1 hour. Remove chicken and leave to cool. Add remaining leeks, barley and seasoning. Simmer for 30 minutes. Remove meat from chicken and chop into small pieces. Add chicken to soup.
This soup can be frozen,
As, over the years he has wandered around many castles and cathedrals with me, I could hardly refuse. Now I am the least sporty person you are likely to ever find. Will I go again, to another football match? Maybe in another 43 years!
However he did make the day special, by suggesting a trip to the National Memorial Arboretum near Derby. It is a stunning and moving place and well worth a visit. It's much larger than I imagined with over 300 memorials of all shapes and sizes. There are also thousands of trees (obviously!) planted in memory of people and events. One particular moving plaque read 'To the unknown but kind lady who donated her liver'. The vast wall with blank stones brought it home as to how many more young men and women are we destined to lose in future wars? A terrifying thought.
Amongst all these memorials was the Basra wall, which was taken down piece by piece when the army left and rebuilt here. The Somme Memorial with thousands of coloured crosses, presumably painted by local children.The Falklands Memorial, The Shot at Dawn Memorial and...I could go on naming them for a long time. If you do get chance to visit it, you should.
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