Thursday, January 27, 2011

Burns Supper - First Courses: Barley-Broth and Scots Rabbit

Roasted bones and vegetables for a lamb stock - the soul of the Burns Supper!
Some would think this is the inside of my compost bin, but it's actually the inside of my stockpot: roasted lamb bones and vegetables, as well as all the darkly caramelized bits scraped from the bottom of the roasting tray. These flavours formed the soul of the Burns Supper, as the resulting stock was used not only in the soup, but also in the haggis and the clapshot. They were the mellow, earthy foundation of the entire meal.

Making a pot of stock the night before a large meal has become a very fond tradition. The house fills with the aroma first of roasting bones, then of the simmering stock, while excitement for the coming meal slowly accrues.

Some specifics on the stock. First I roasted lamb bones from Four Whistle Farm. It's hard to come by good lamb femur bones, I think because of the popularity of leg roasts and shanks. A touch of tomato paste was smeared over the bones for the latter half of the roasting. Then onion, carrot, celery, and garlic were baked. The pans were deglazed with water, and bay and rosemary were added. Finally the whole lot was covered in cold water, brought to a simmer and left overnight.


Vegetable-wise the soup contained onions, kale, and carrots.

Pearled barley was cooked in a separate pot so that it wouldn't cloud the stock.

The final garnish was lamb neck. Neck is a variety-cut that sounds a lot grosser than it really is: the meat is indistinguishable from that of the shoulder. The necks were seared, braised in some of the lamb stock, cooled, shredded, and added to the soup.

RabbitA plate of 'rabbit': hot cheese and beer on toast

This dish is most commonly called either "Welsh rarebit" or "Welsh rabbit." "Rabbit" is the original name, though no one knows the origin of the term. Some say it was originally derogatory, suggesting that if a Welshman went out to hunt rabbit, he would end up eating cheese for dinner.  The dish is currently experiencing a revival, and modern authors and cooks prefer to use the corruption "rarebit," as it avoids the obvious confusion with the hopping mammal.

At its heart, rabbit is hot cheese on toast.
The best versions also include beer.I borrowed a technique from Fergus Henderson's book The Whole Beast. He makes a roux, then whisks his beer into it, creating what is essentially a beer velouté. The cheese is then melted into this sauce.

Besides serving Henderson's version of "Welsh" rabbit, made with Guinness and cheddar, I also developed a Scots version using Innis and Gunn and a mild gouda. If you are unfamiliar, Innis and Gunn is a Scottish beer that is aged in oak barrels, and is really one of the most remarkable beers I've ever tasted.

Scots Rabbit
Adapted from Fergus Henderson's recipe for Welsh Rarebit

  • one tablespoon butter
  • one tablespoon white flour
  • one cup Innis and Gunn

  • one pound mild Sylvan Star gouda, grated
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour, and cook until starting to colour. Whisk in the beer and bring to a simmer. Add the cheese. Stir the mixture until the cheese is thoroughly melted and a uniform sauce forms. Pour into a shallow dish and allow to set. This can be done the day before the meal.

To serve, spread onto pieces of toast and broil until the cheese browns.

The rabbit goes very well with a glass of the beer you used to prepare it. Actually it goes well with alcohol of any kind.


  1. This sounds really good. I'm hungry thinking about it. I have to admit I'm glad the rabbit is not the hopping variety, though.

  2. the barley broth sounds right up my alley at this moment in winter :)

  3. The barley broth looks divine... I actually had the Welsh Rarebit while there... it was mammoth. His bread slice was about 2 inches thick and would cover a large dinner plate. I kid you not. I didn't like his topping. I am glad you did. I have a wide reaching palate, and found the topping gamey. Odd, I know. It was probably the beer. I don't drink it.