Burns Night, the Wrong Tartan, and a Recipe for Millionaires’ Shortbread


In this column, Katherine Knowles cooks and chats from her New York City kitchen.

Burns Night, on the 25th of January, is the night when Scots around the world like to commemorate the poet Robert Burns by reciting “Address to a Haggis,” drinking whiskey, and dancing reels. Before I met my husband, it was inconceivable to me that this could be a thing. Now I know better.

My husband is Scottish. He has not one but two kilts — one’s his dress tartan, one’s more of an everyday sort of tartan, you know, for every day. So when I decided to buy him a plaid shirt, it obviously couldn’t just be any random tartan from Old Navy.

I hit up the L.L.Bean website, found a Stewart tartan, had the shirt shipped from Canada, and presented him with the package, feeling very smug. Best shirt ever, right? No, apparently not. He’s not a Stewart. He’s a McDonald. Yeah, just like the farmer/Big Mac conglomerate. How could I possibly not have remembered the very name of the clan I had married into — especially since it’s, like, the most memorable Scottish name of all Scottish names? Totally valid question.

Anyway, it’s Burns Night, which means general Scottish-ness; for us, specifically,
Granny Hannah’s Millionaires’ Shortbread.

First off, make the shortbread base.
2 ounces castor sugar
4 ounces softened butter
6 ounces plain flour

Mix all ingredients together to soft dough and press or roll out on a square baking sheet. Prick all over and bake at about 230F (160C) for 1/2 hour or until golden brown. Allow to cool.

Easy, right? So now onto the toffee filling:

4 ounces margarine [I usually use butter and a pinch of salt]
3 ounces sugar
2 tablespoons syrup
1 small can or 1/2 larger can of condensed milk. I use 1/2 can (397 gr) of Nestlé Carnation Condensed Milk. Be sure to use Condensed rather than Ideal milk.

Melt margarine, sugar, and syrup in a pan. Add condensed milk. Bring to the boil and boil for exactly 5 minutes, stirring all the time, or it will burn. And you will have ruined Burns Night, and it will be all your fault. So be warned. Spread over the shortbread base and allow to cool and set.

Lastly, the chocolate. Nearly there now:

At least 100 gram slab of best dark chocolate.

Break into a bowl and melt over hot water [I use the microwave, but don’t tell anyone]. Spread over the toffee mixture and leave to set. When set, cut into squares or fingers as you wish.

You will wish. This is awesome!!