Haggis production under way in Axminster

Och Aye – East Devon butcher uses secret recipe to re-create Scottish favourite dish.

IT’S no a time for “wee timorous beasties” – Burns night celebrations are for haggis eating and drinking substantial amounts of whisky.

And there is no reason for Scots traditionalists in the Axe Valley to miss out on next week’s celebrations.

Butchers Complete Meats, of South Street, Axminster, have been busy preparing dozens of haggis, to their own secret recipe.

Boss Shaun Vining says their version may be made by Sassenachs but it is created with only the finest authentic ingredients.

Burns Night, each January 25, celebrates the birthday, in 1759, of Scotland’s most famous poet, Robert Burns. It is celebrated by his countrymen the world over and many parties will be held next week to mark the occasion.

In its simplest form the celebration involves eating a special meal of haggis, “neeps and tatties” - with which whisky is drunk.

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Haggis traditionally contains chopped mutton, including the liver and heart, oatmeal, suet, and spices traditionally encased in sheep’s gut which is boiled before being served with a mixture of vegetables, usually mashed turnips and potatoes - “tatties”.

This is sometimes followed by readings from Burns’ poems and the singing of Scottish songs, notably of Burns’ verses set to music such as “The Banks of Doon”.

At larger, more formal gatherings the evening takes on a ceremonial ritual. When the guests are seated for the banquet, a piper pipes in the haggis which is placed on the head table. At this point, the Master of Ceremonies stands up to “address” the haggis, reciting Burns celebratory “Ode to the Haggis”, before cutting it with a skean dhu - a Scottish dagger, still traditionally worn with Highland dress - and passing it around to be eaten.

Throughout the proceedings, whisky is drunk in considerable quantities to honour a poet well known for his conviviality.