There's a reason us Scottish folk can't do Dry January. That reason is Burns Night and consequently Whisky. (No E folks, no E). Me and whisky go back a long way. It's been a big part of my life as long as I can remember. Before you start worrying, I wasn't drinking it as a toddler, rather I'm a farmer's daughter and my Dad's main crop was malting barley. Our family farm is on The Black Isle, overlooking the Beauly Firth. The next Firth as you head north is the Cromarty Firth and following that the Dornoch Firth. But why am I telling you all of this? The reason being is that all of our barley was sold locally so there is a chance that some of it made its way to Balblair Distillery on the coast of the Dornoch Firth. So when Balblair got in touch to ask if I'd like to come onboard and work with them to celebrate Burns Night I felt that I'd come full circle and there was an immediate connection. Us Highlanders like to stick together.
When it comes to Burns night there are many traditions, but the tipple of choice is always Whisky. Famous for producing award-winning Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Balblair is the ideal dram to toast the Bard with. Whilst many whiskys are sold by age, Balblair is sold by Vintage resulting in strongly individual whiskies which capture the unique essence of the year in which they were laid down. Both the bottles and boxes are absolutely stunning in vibrant colours with an innovative magnetic door opening mechanism for the box.
Now for the taste test. I know what I like when it comes to alcohol but I'm not very good at putting the flavours into words à la Jilly Goolden and Oz Clarke (showing my age!) so I'll leave that to the experts and share the official tasting notes for the Balblair Malts trio. All I have to add is that I'm pretty sure I tasted some of my Dad's barley in the 1990...
1990 Highland Single Malt Whisky, 1st release
Matures in American oak ex-bourbon casks and Spanish oak ex sherry butts Blablair Vintage 1990 2nd release is truly exceptional. This luxurious expression is the perfect after dinner treat.
1999 Highland Single Malt Scotch Whiskey, 2nd release
This beautifully developed Balblair Vintage boasts the classic, fruity, floral and light heart of Balblair set against a darker, richer backdrop of further maturation in Spanish oak.
2005 Highland Single Malt Scotch Whiskey, 1st release
Only a handful of American oak, ex-bourbon casks laid down in 2005 were selected by Distillery Manager John MacDonald to form this classic Balblair expression. Light, fruity and refreshing, this classic Vintage embodies Balblair’s house style.
The recipe that I've created using Balblair combines the holy trinity of Burns Supper ingredients. Haggis, Neeps and Tatties. Fair fa your honest sonsie face! Yup, we're talking haggis. Serious Burns. Although in my book Haggis is most definitely for life and not just for Burns Night (25th January for the uninitiated)
Haggis are of course small four legged creatures that live in the Highlands. They have two legs shorter than the others so they can run around the mountains without toppling over. Catch one yourself by chasing it the opposite way round the mountain or buy a free range one from your butcher.
Scottish Neeps are Turnips, but not wee white new Turnips but rather the large purple skinned yellow/orange Swede.
Tatties are potatoes and must be of the mashed variety.
For a twist on tradition I've used Scotch Beef to make a Beef and Haggis Meatloaf which is then topped with Neeps cooked in a Balblair, Butter and Brown Sugar glaze. I do hope Rabbie would approve.
Scotch Beef & Haggis Meatloaf with Whisky Neeps
500g Scotch Beef Mince
1 Small Onion, finely chopped
Whisky Neeps Ingredients
700g Neeps (Swede) cubed
60g Demerara Sugar
2 Nips (70ml) of Balblair Whisky
Salt & Pepper
Preheat your oven to 180c
Remove the haggis from its outer wrappings and cut it into small cubes.
In a large bowl combine the Scotch Beef Mince, Haggis cubes and chopped onion. The most effective way to do this is to get your hands in and give it a thorough mix.
Press the meatloaf mixture into a non stick 2lb loaf tin and cook for 45 minutes.
Whisky NeepsPlace the cubed neep in a pan with the butter, sugar, Balblair Whisky and enough boiling water to barely cover.
Bring to the boil and cook uncovered over a high heat until the neep is tender and the water has evaporated to leave a buttery glaze. This will take around 30 minutes.
Season with salt & pepper.
Turn the Scotch Beef and Haggis Meatloaf out onto a board and top with the Whisky Neeps.
Serve the meatloaf sliced with extra Whisky Neeps on the side and a generous dollop of Mashed Tatties. Accompany with a dram of Balblair.
For a delicious Burns Night desert try Bintu's Orange Bundt Cake with Balblair Whisky Salted Caramel
Disclosure: This is a commissioned recipe for Balblair. As always, all views expressed are my own.
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