Tonight is Burns night, a night when all Scotland celebrates the life of their National poet; Robert Burns. Scottish people the world over will be celebrating with Haggis and a wee dram. Food & drink, poetry and good company are such a wonderful way to while away a long winter evening – add in some music and it is nigh on perfect.

I am not Scottish. In fact I have never been further North than Ben Nevis (although I have been to the top) but as a Celt and a poetry lover I certainly feel some affinity with this celebration.

If you want to eat Haggis tonight then I suggest that you go out and buy one, if you want neeps and tatties (swede and potatoes) with it then you really don’t need a recipe, but if you want a dessert then I recommend cranachan and I thought some of you might appreciate a recipe for that.

Cranachan is a lovely, whisky laced dessert of cream, honey and raspberries with a little texture added by some toasted oatmeal.

Now, I realise that I am on shaky ground here: Traditional recipes are always a challenge because every cook claims to have the most authentic recipe, passed down through his or her family for generations and yet all of these recipes differ in some small way. The original cranachan recipes were made using crowdie (a kind of cream cheese) as well as (or even instead of) cream. Today most people would consider raspberries to be an essential ingredient although in 1929 Marian McNeill suggested using blackberries or blaeberries in her book The Scots Kitchen.

I am claiming no particular authenticity for this recipe, in fact, the only claim I make is that it is delicious.

cranachan (2)


Serves 4

75g Pinhead Oatmeal

300g Fresh Raspberries

500ml Double Cream

3 tbsp Honey (heather honey is good)

3 tbsp Whisky


Toast the oatmeal in a non-stick frying pan until it has some crunch and tastes nutty – it may not brown much until it burns so watch it carefully. Set aside to cool.

Whisk the cream until just thickened but not stiff. The cream will get thicker as you add the other ingredients. Stir or gently whisk in the whisky and the honey. Taste and add a little more if you want to!

Reserve a few raspberries to top each dessert. Divide the remaining raspberries into thirds. Push 2/3 through a sieve to make a smooth puree.

Prepare 4 glasses or dessert bowls.

You can now either swirl the raspberry puree, whole raspberries and oatmeal through the cream to create a ripple effect before spooning into the glasses or you can layer up the various components straight into the glasses.

Top each glass with the reserved raspberries and a drizzle of honey. Serve with a glass of whisky and don’t forget to toast the bard.

My favourite Robert Burns poem:

To A Louse On Seeing One on a Lady’s Bonnet, at Church

Ha! whare ye gaun, ye crowlin ferlie!
Your impudence protects you sairly:
I canna say but ye strunt rarely,
Owre gauze and lace;
Tho’ faith! I fear, ye dine but sparely
On sic a place.
Ye ugly, creepin, blastit wonner,
Detested, shunn’d by saunt an’ sinner,
How dare ye set your fit upon her,
Sae fine a lady!
Gae somewhere else, and seek your dinner
On some poor body.
Swith, in some beggar’s haffet squattle;
There ye may creep, and sprawl, and sprattle,
Wi’ ither kindred, jumping cattle,
In shoals and nations;
Whare horn nor bane ne’er daur unsettle
Your thick plantations.
Now haud you there, ye’re out o’ sight,
Below the fatt’rils, snug an’ tight;
Na, faith ye yet! ye’ll no be right
‘Till ye’ve got on it,
The vera tapmost, tow’ring height
O’ Miss’s bonnet.
My sooth! right bauld ye set your nose out,
As plump and grey as ony grozet;
O for some rank, mercurial rozet,
Or fell, red smeddum,
I’d gie you sic a hearty doze o’t,
Wad dress your droddum!
I wad na been surpris’d to spy
You on an auld wife’s flannen toy;
Or aiblins some bit duddie boy,
On’s wyliecoat;
But Miss’s fine Lunardi! fie!
How daur ye do’t?
O Jenny, dinna toss your head,
An’ set your beauties a’ abread!
Ye little ken what cursed speed
The blastie’s makin’!
Thae winks and finger-ends, I dread,
Are notice takin’!
O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion!
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
And ev’n devotion!


Bakewell Tart

Bakewell TartThere is something quintessentially English about a Bakewell tart.  I don’t know why that should be because it is very similar to the quintessentially Spanish Tarta de Santiago and almonds are not exactly native to the UK but, nevertheless, the Bakewell tart is very English.

Bakewell tarts originate in the eponymous town in Derbyshire but before anyone from Bakewell gets in touch I must just say that the tart is NOT the same as the original Bakewell Pudding which is made from puff pastry and almond paste and whose exact ingredients are a closely guarded secret.

If the only Bakewell Tart you have tasted is the apparently “exceedingly good” cherry and fondant topped version that you can buy in supermarkets then you probably don’t understand my enthusiasm.  Bake your own and I assure you that you will.

You can eat this hot (with custard) or cold but I like it best at room temperature with a drizzle of pouring cream.

Bakewell Tart Recipe



125g Plain Flour

75g Butter

25g Caster Sugar

1 Egg (separated)


150g Caster Sugar

150g Butter (at room temperature)

150g Ground Almonds

3 Eggs plus 1 Egg Yolk

2 heaped tbsp Raspberry Jam

The grated Zest of one Lemon

1 tbsp Flaked Almonds


Pre-heat the oven to 180° C / 350° F / Gas Mark 4

To make the pastry put the flour, sugar and butter into a food processor and blitz until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolk and 1 tbsp cold water and pulse until the pastry comes together. Alternatively you can do this by hand – rub the butter into the flour and sugar with your fingertips and then stir in the egg yolk and water with a knife.

Shape the pastry into a ball, flatten slightly, wrap in cling film and chill for half an hour.

Grease a 20cm / 8” loose bottomed flan tin. Roll the pastry out quite thinly (about 3mm) and use to line the tin. Prick the base all over with a fork and chill for 20 minutes before trimming the top.

Line the pastry case with baking parchment and fill with baking beans. Cook for 20 minutes until pale golden. Remove the paper and baking beans, brush the pastry case with egg white and return to the oven for 2 minutes.

Spread the jam in an even layer over the base of the pastry case.

Put the eggs and egg yolk into a bowl and whisk lightly. Cream together the butter and sugar in a separate bowl and gradually add the beaten eggs. Fold in the ground almonds and the lemon zest and use this mixture to fill the pastry case. Level the top and bake for 20 minutes.

Scatter the flaked almonds over the top and cook for another 15-20 minutes until set and a rich, golden brown.

Cool and dust with icing sugar.

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