Happy Burns Day!

IMG_3207Some have meat and cannot eat,
Some cannot eat that want it;
But we have meat and we can eat,
So let the Lord be thankit.

attributed to Robert Burns, “Selkirk Grace”

Today marked my first Burns Day as a proper Scotch drinker, so naturally, I planned a full vegan Burns Supper complete with single malt pairings.

Taking my cue from The Caledonian’s Donna Wolff, I paired the smoky, briny Laphroaig 10 with a bowl of Cullen skink, a hearty chowder traditionally made with smoked haddock. My vegan version was a creamy, warming, rib-sticking potato soup with a sweet smokiness to match the Laphroaig. A wonderful way to stimulate the appetite — and it’s appetite that was needed, for there were two courses still to go!

IMG_3209But 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

– Robert Burns, “Address to a Haggis”

Ah, haggis! A dish that strikes fear into the hearts of the uninitiated! But what’s not to love about a vegan haggis? Lentils, beans, minced vegetables, and pinhead oats carefully seasoned with a blend of warming wintry spices. I’ve tried several veggie haggis recipes, but this one — substituting mushrooms for celery and adding allspice and thyme — was a real winner, and shone alongside my clapshot and coconut milk-based whisky sauce. A protein-rich dish worthy of warriors and kings and Talisker 10! Rich and sweet, the subtly smoky Talisker was a flavourful team-player, enhancing the sweet smoke of the whisky sauce and balancing the spice of the haggis without stealing the spotlight. I could have easily gone for seconds — of both the Talisker and the haggis! — if I hadn’t needed to save room for dessert.

IMG_3213Fare-thee-weel, thou first and fairest!
Fare-thee-weel, thou best and dearest!
Thine be ilka joy and treasure,
Peace, Enjoyment, Love and Pleasure!

– Robert Burns, “Ae Fond Kiss, And Then We Sever”

How did I cap off my vegan Burns Supper? Cranachan made with cashew-almond “cream” instead of the traditional dairy topping and, given the January chill, surprisingly fresh, juicy raspberries. This whisky pairing proved a bit of a challenge for me. I wanted to stay with Scotch, but the Scotches in my collection at the moment are largely of the bold, smoky island variety. I finished the last of my Glenfiddichs weeks ago, and the single lowland whisky currently in my possession is the spicy Auchentoshan Three Wood. Origin trumped tasting notes, and I went with the Auchentoshan. This is easily my favourite lowland expression, but I found the spice overpowered the berries and sweet cream. What I should have served was Canada’s own single malt: Glen Breton Rare. This is a mild, sweet, fruit-forward dram that would have yielded a more rewarding tasting experience at the end of the meal.

This kind of trial and error, though, is a large part of the fun of putting together meals like this. There’s pleasure to be had in discovering how certain ingredients in the food are enhanced by flavours in the whisky, and vice versa. And there’s pleasure, too, in challenging my palate.

Slàinte mhath and happy Burns Day!

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