Burns Night Bonanza

Celebrate Burns Night with some delicious Scottish recipes

Haggis with neeps and tatties - Scottish food & recipes I’m from Wales originally so celebrating Burns Night was not an important family tradition in the Griscti household. The thought of eating haggis never really appealed to me until I was at university and sharing a house with three Scots, so when planted with plateful, I naturally gave it a go. To my surprise I really loved it. It doesn’t look the most appetising of meals but on the first bite I found it to be flavoursome, light and totally moreish. A few years have passed by since my university days but I still love to celebrate Burns Night with a deliciously tasty haggis, accompanied by my own version of hearty neeps and tatties.

The haggis
We tucked into an M&S Haggis, made by Macsween of Edinburgh. It didn’t fail to impress. It was sweetly spiced, mouthwateringly tender and packed with flavour.  I was particularly impressed that I managed to convert a non-Haggis eater into a haggis lover! “It is sooooo good,” was my friend Nikki’s verdict. I felt it important to include her exact review – thank you Nikki! We both came to the conclusion that if you’re squeamish about Haggis, one bite will completely change your perception. With its light consistency and spicy flavour it almost tastes like a rich type of stuffing, or lentil-based dish. I urge any non-Haggis eaters to give it a go.

To cook the Haggis, simply wrap in foil and place into an oven-proof dish filled with about 2cm of water, then cook in the oven at 180°C for 1 hour 20 minutes. Here’s what I cooked with the haggis…

Kind-of Scottish tatties
This is my own recipe and it works so well with Haggis. It’s a rich, creamy and textured mash with an indulgent crumbly cheese topping.

1) Steam some green cabbage leaves for about 10 minutes, keep the vegetable water as stock.

2) Make your mashed potato the usual way with plenty of butter, salt and pepper but instead of adding milk, add a touch of cabbage water (approx. 2 ladlesful – but judge for yourself: you don’t want the consistency to be too runny). Then add crème fraîche instead of milk. Again judge the amount by taste – you want it to be rich and creamy but not too heavy.

3) Stir the chopped, steamed cabbage leaves into the mash mix, adding a little more cabbage water / crème fraîche if needed.

4) Chop up approx. half a red onion and stir this into the mixture. Transfer into an ovenproof dish, then grate some Cheddar cheese and cover the top of the mash, together with a sprinkling of breadcrumbs and salt and pepper.

5) Cook in the oven for about 25 minutes, until the topping is golden brown.

Caramelised balsamic carrots
1) Chop up and steam your carrots (enough for about four people) for about 10 minutes. Make sure they are not too soft, keeping a little crunch.

2) Chop up half a red onion and gently fry in some butter and a little olive oil until soft. Add a couple of spoonfuls of brown sugar then add the steamed carrots. Let the golden, sugary onions coat the carrots, then add a dash of balsamic vinegar (about 2 tablespoons). Gently cook for about 10 minutes, until the balsamic vinegar has reduced, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Serve your haggis and tatties with honey-roasted parsnips with thyme (posh neeps), and a white wine, onion gravy.

If you’d like some inspiration on foodie treats to stock up on for Burns Night, see my Scottish Food Buys on allabouty.com. Happy Burns night everyone!

Head to Joe Allen’s, London, for gourmet burgers and chic cocktails

Joe Allen restaurant London

A New York-style brasserie, with a mighty-meaty American menu

Originally opened in the seventies, this theatre-loving, bustling haunt is where actors, producers, directors and West-End stars would habitually hang out supping on cocktails devouring the classic American fare. It still maintains that element of drama and sophistication, with crisp white linen table clothes, waiters clad in long, knee-length aprons with white shirts and black ties, a singing pianist, sultry, ambient lighting and walls adorned with theatre posters from old musicals and images of iconic American stars.

Joe Allen's restaurant - London restaurants - restaurant reviews - foodThe restaurant itself is has a New York/Parisian brasserie feel, with exposed brick walls and wooden floorboards. Very New York and very cool. Not surprising mind you, seeing as the restaurant itself is styled on its original New York venue, so there’s an aura of the Big Apple’s downtown-chic that emanates throughout. I envisage a swarm of Broadway stars herding into the restaurant to serenade the audience with classic show tunes accompanied by a debonair bow-tied gentleman tinkling on the piano.

We’re sat on a romantic table for two, subtly amused I sit opposite my lovely friend Di, and not on an intimate date with sexy man. To help whet our appetites we quite literally dive into a couple of tongue-tingling old fashioned tipples. I opt for the ‘Bitter Queen’, a combination of gin, Dubonnet, rose lemonade with a subtle hint of orange and aromatic bitters. As a Campari lover, this is just the cocktail for me, and of course helps whittle down our choices from the mouthwatering menu.

Joe Allen cocktail - London restaurant reviews - foodIf you’re feeling famished, Joe Allen’s collection of finger-licking American treats will absolutely hit the mark. We’re both ravenous, so if I’m honest, everything looks good, but catching my eye in particular is the creamy lobster macaroni. Who could resist? And then there’s the choice between succulent fillet steak, spiced baby back ribs or half a grilled chicken. What’s not on the menu we notice are the signature burgers, but we spot the waiters gliding through the restaurant gracefully carrying towering sliders filed with bacon, crisp salad, chunky pickles and bubbling cheese. We simply can’t miss out on sampling the restaurant’s definitive dish. We decide to share a steak and burger following our starters of lobster macaroni and crab salad.

Crab salad bloody tomao dressing - Joe Allen restaurant London - restaurant reviews - foodThe crab salad is divine. Delicate flakes of fresh crab with slices of avocado dressed in a tangy Bloody Mary tomato dressing. Refreshingly light and flavoursome, and the perfect entrée before tucking into a mammoth burger. The mac and cheese unfortunately did not quite live up to expectations. I was expecting a thick, cheesy sauce with chunks of exquisite lobster. Instead I bite into a mouthful of macaroni, that has a runny, milky consistency and I’m forced to play ‘hunt the lobster’. A few tiny chunks surface from the mounds of macaroni. It was ok, but certainly nothing nothing to rave about.

Macaroni and cheese - Joe Allen restaurant London - restaurant reviews - foodOur mains are swiftly presented to us in no time at all. I have a glistening fillet steak cooked in the restaurant’s signature steak sauce, accompanied by a delightful slightly spiced chipotle hollandaise sauce – an absolute taste sensation when smothered over my juicy steak.

Steak with hollandaise chipotle sauce - Joe Allen's restaurant London - restaurant reviews - food

Di is presented an impressive burger piled high with crisp salad, slathers of cheese, sizzling crispy bacon rashers and chunky pickles in a toasted brioche bun. Instantly I have food envy but lucky for me we decide to share! As a true burger buff I’m very particular about my sizzling sliders – but this one ticks every box.  The meat is perfectly pink and meltingly tender, the crispy bacon is covered in gooey cheese and the salad and pickles are crunchy and tasty as I bite into the sweet brioche bun. Heavenly. The chipotle hollandaise tastes great with the burger, alongside the spicy steak sauce, to add a cheeky little kick.

Joe Allen burger - London restaurants reviews - foodTo our surprise both plates are literally licked clean, without a leftover in sight. We have to roll ourselves out of the restaurant from a little over indulgence but overall Joe Allen’s gets a big thumbs up. Great burgers, quirky cocktails and a bustling atmosphere. Definitely worth a visit.

For more information on booking a table at Joe Allens, and to view a sample menu visit www.joeallen.co.uk

Vietnamese Pho with king prawns

One of my absolute favourite meals is Vietnamese Pho. I just love the freshness and aromatic tones of this flavoursome broth. It’s such a cleansing dish packed with spicy ginger, fragrant lemon grass and a welcome kick of fresh chilli. If you’re feeling a little under the weather this is the best dish to warm your cockles, plus it acts as a great decongestant.

I usually go to my favourite Vietnamese restaurant at the end of my road for these culinary Asian delights. Any of you Hackney dwellers will know and frequent the fabulous Tre Viet, and for those further afield who don’t, I would highly recommend. With a mind-boggling array of authentic, mouthwatering Vietnamese dishes, plus the option of BYO, it’s always a preferred option in my book. The prospect of attempting to make any dish myself for the first time is always a little unnerving, especially when you know you can grab the perfect plate less than two minutes down the road and for less than £10; the second option usually prevails.

I decided to bite the bullet the other night and recreate a Pho noodle broth myself. A scary thought, but if it turned out to be complete a disaster I could always skip down the road to the takeaway and pretend to my housemate that I really had made it from scratch.

What I have been missing out on! It turned out to be a huge success. Apart from perhaps cooking the noodles a little too long, everything else was a winner. Vegetables were suitably crispy, the broth was packed with flavour and the chilli kick we were after definitely hit the mark. Plus it was a great warm up for the Comic Relief chilli-eating competition my housemate had entered herself into, and won I hasten to add!

I used prawns for this broth but you can use anything you like; thinly sliced pork, beef, fish or even just veg. The flavours of the broth are so wonderful, the meat or fish is just a welcome addition to the dish.

Vietnamese Pho with prawns


3 red or birdseye chillis
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 stick of lemongrass, cracked with the side of a knife
2cm piece of ginger, squashed slightly
4 spring onions, trimmed and sliced diagonally
600 mls of good quality chicken stock
3 tbsp of Asian fish sauce
Handful of parsley leaves
Handful of basil leaves
150g cooked king prawns
150g rice noodles
100g bean sprouts
100g choy sum (fresh Asian cabbage leaves)
1 lime, cut into wedges
1 boiled egg


1) Place the lemongrass, ginger garlic and 3/4 of the chopped chilli into a pan with the chicken stock. Bring to the boil for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat and leave to simmer for another 15 minutes for the flavours to really infuse.

2) Add the prawns and the choy sum (fresh Asian cabbage leaves) to the soup, and add three of the spring onions, the fish sauce and the fresh herbs. Leave aside a small handful of each herb for garnishing. Put the lid back on the pan, and leave it whilst you carry out step 3.

3) In a pan of boiling water, cook the beansprouts for 1-2 minutes, or until they are just tender. Drain them and add them to the soup. Place the egg into the boiling water, you need to boil for about 5-6 minutes. To save water add the rice noodles to the egg, and leave to cook for 4-5 minutes. Remove the lemongrass and ginger and from the soup.

4) Remove boiled egg and place into a bowl of cold water. Then peel the shell neatly.

5) Divide the cooked noodles between two deep bowls. Pour a generous serving of your broth and vegetables over the cooked noodles. Cut the boiled egg in half and place on top of the soup.

6) Garnish with a little of the basil and parsley leaves, a few slices of red chilli and spring onion. Serve with a wedge of lime.