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Posted on Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 8 a.m.

Neeps 'n' Tatties is a warm and delicious side dish suitable for Robbie Burns Day

By Mary Bilyeu


Mary Bilyeu | Contributor

Last year, my Robbie Burns Day post about Scottish Oatmeal Shortbread was selected as one of the "Best of the Blogs" for Jan. 25, 2011 by the prestigious Food News Journal — a huge thrill!  That's a hard act to follow, I have to admit.  But I think I may have done it today with this traditional dish — Neeps 'n' Tatties.

"Neeps" are turnips and "tatties" are potatoes. Boil 'em, mash 'em... good, simple, hearty fare for a bitter winter's day. To translate, so to speak, what Robert Burns — the national poet of Scotland, born on Jan. 25, 1759 — wrote in Up in the Early Morning, "Cold blows the wind from east to west."  Warmth and comfort are what we seek these days.

But why not dress up this basic dish with a bit of glam from Drambuie: "A secret elixir of herbs, spices and heather honey, crafted with aged Scotch whiskies"? Why make a boring gravy with broth if I could celebrate my heritage — one-quarter Scottish, and my maternal grandmother was proud to be descended from the Rob Roy MacGregors — with a more flavorful addition?  

The Drambuie's sweetness is a nice balance to the sharpness of the turnips; and potatoes, of course, are perfect with virtually any gravy.

Robbie Burns is usually honored on his birthday with Burns Suppers featuring the dreaded haggis — sheep innards (heart, liver, lungs) mixed with oats, onions and spices and then cooked in a sheep's stomach. Even if I could find all of the ingredients, I can assure you I have no interest in serving anything this authentic for the celebration!

But neeps 'n' tatties is not only fun to say, it's a delicious dish to eat since "I'm sure it's winter fairly."

Up in the Early Morning (1788)

Cauld blaws the wind frae east to west,
The drift is driving sairly;
Sae loud and shill's I hear the blast-
I'm sure it's winter fairly.

Up in the morning's no for me,
Up in the morning early;
When a' the hills are covered wi' snaw,
I'm sure it's winter fairly.

The birds sit chittering in the thorn,
A' day they fare but sparely;
And lang's the night frae e'en to morn-
I'm sure it's winter fairly.

Neeps 'n' Tatties with Drambuie Sauce

1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup milk
pinches of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fill a medium saucepan with salted water and bring to a boil.  Add the potatoes; boil for 10-15 minutes, until tender.  D
rain the potatoes and mash with the butter, milk, salt and pepper.  Place onto a serving dish.

1 pound turnips, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons milk
pinches of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fill a medium saucepan with salted water and bring to a boil.  Add the turnips; boil for 5 minutes, until tender.  Drain the turnips and mash with the butter, milk, salt and pepper; place onto a serving dish.

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour

pinch of kosher salt
1/3 cup Drambuie
3/4 cup milk

In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat; whisk in the flour and salt, then cook for 1 minute.  Slowly add the Drambuie and the milk, whisking until smooth.  Cook for 5 minutes over low heat.

Serve the Drambuie sauce over the neeps 'n' tatties.

Serves 6-8 as a side dish.

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Mary Bilyeu writes about her adventures in the kitchen - making dinner, celebrating holidays, entering cooking contests ... whatever strikes her fancy. She is also on a mission to find great deals for her Frugal Floozie Friday posts, seeking fabulous food at restaurants on the limited budget of only $5 per person. Feel free to email her with questions or comments or suggestions:

You should also visit Mary's blog — Food Floozie — on which she enthuses and effuses over all things food-related.

The phrase "You Should Only Be Happy" (written in Hebrew on the stone pictured in this post) comes from Deuteronomy 16:15 and is a wish for all her readers - when you come to visit here, may you always be happy.


Sandy MacTavish

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 5:13 p.m.

While I am sure your recipe is delightful, as a 100 percent Scot, born in Scotland, and a lover of Burns, I would like to let the other three quarters of your heritage know that we like to "ca the laddie Rabbie, No Robbie" I also wish to add that my sincere wish is that when we sing "Auld Land Syne" by Rabbie on New Years Eve, that folks learn to pronouce the word "Syne" like SIGN, as in stop sign. Not "Zine" There's no a Z or a Zed as we say Scotland in the word SYNE. I think we depend on Wikipedia, so I submit the item below as confitmation. "From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Robert Burns (25 January 1759 – 21 July 1796) (also known as Rabbie Burns, Scotland's favourite son, the Ploughman Poet, Robden of Solway Firth, the Bard of Ayrshire and in Scotland as simply The Bard)[1][2] was a Scottish poet and a lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland, and is celebrated worldwide. He is the best known of the poets who have written in the Scots language, although much of his writing is also in English and a "light" Scots dialect, accessible to an audience beyond Scotland. He also wrote in standard English, and in these his political or civil commentary is often at its most blunt"

Tom Teague

Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 2:16 p.m.

Mary - Thanks for expositing both the recipe and the poem. I'll approach the recipe with caution because, as you know, "the best-laid schemes o' mice an' men Gang aft agley."

Mary Bilyeu

Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 2:26 p.m.

What a charming comment to start my morning ... :)