Photo by the writer
Photo by the writer

The humble haggis rose to fame in 1787 when Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759-1787) penned his immortal ode Address to a Haggis, to what has since become a global symbol of all things Scottish even though, in all likelihood, the haggis may not be Scottish at all!

Robbie Burns, as he is affectionately remembered, is commemorated, along with the haggis he made famous, at Burn’s night suppers held, wherever there are Scots, all around the world on January 25.

A selection of his poems is duly recited by kilt wearing men, with Address to a Haggis accompanying the haggis — already having made its grand entrance born aloft on a platter and piped to the table accompanied by the Banshee wail of bagpipes — as the ritual dinner is served.

There is something intrinsically barbaric about serving a meal, let alone eating it, encased in a sheep’s stomach but, historically speaking, it made complete sense.

The first confirmed haggis recipe, written down in the early 1400s, came, much to Scottish dismay, from England. This surprisingly tasty peasant dish is also claimed by Scandinavians, the French and ancient Greek historian/poet Homer, in the eighth century BC.

Irrespective of its origins, Scottish legend has it that the original haggis was an animal. This simple and nutritious dish is relatively cheap and easy to make and, in all of its current variations, is deserving of its place of honour on the table.

A symbol of all things Scottish, this simple and nutritious dish is relatively cheap and easy to make

Traditional haggis

Ingredients

500g sheep liver, lungs and heart — minced
2 tbsp butter
1 medium onion — minced
1 cup coarse oatmeal lightly toasted in a dry frying pan 1 cup mutton stock
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 egg
Salt to taste
A cleaned sheep’s stomach and a length of strong cotton string

Method

Put toasted oatmeal into a bowl and mix in the stock. Leave to stand until all liquid has been absorbed. Lightly fry the onion and herbs in the butter. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients until well-blended and lump free. Carefully stuff the prepared sheep’s stomach with the mixture, securely tying both ends closed with the string when done.

Put the haggis in a large pan of water, bring to the boil and simmer for one-and-a-half to two hours, when it should be done. Serve with mashed potatoes and mashed swedes/rutabaga or turnips.

Simple haggis

Ingredients

500g mutton qeema
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion — minced or finely chopped
3 teaspoons garlic paste
1 cup rolled oats lightly toasted in a frying pan with a little soya sauce
1 cup mutton stock
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried sage
1 teaspoons ground black pepper and whole peppercorns to garnish
Half teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 egg
Salt to taste

Method

Combine toasted oats with stock and let stand until all liquid is absorbed. Lightly fry onion, garlic and herbs in the olive oil. Mix all ingredients, except the peppercorns, together in a large bowl. Line a baking tin, approximately six inches by 10 inches by four inches deep with aluminum foil, and evenly spread the mixture in this. Lightly press whole peppercorns into the top for extra crunch and peppery taste. Cover with more foil.

Bake in moderate oven for approximately one hour.

Serve with mashed potatoes, mashed swede/rutabaga or turnip.

Vegetarian haggis

Ingredients

2 cups cooked red lentils or chana daal, cooked until liquid has evaporated and grains are separate
1 cup mixed chopped nuts
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion — minced
3 teaspoons garlic paste
1 cup rolled oats lightly toasted in a frying pan with a little soya sauce
1 cup vegetable stock
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
2 teaspoons dried age
2 tsp dried thyme
1 teaspoons ground black pepper and some peppercorns for garnish
Half teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 egg

Method

As for simple haggis, substituting the meat with the lentils and nuts. The egg can also be replaced with a little oil if desired.

Quick cook haggis: Using the mixture for whichever haggis you prefer, make into burger, kebab or sausage shapes and fry. Serve with rice, French fries, on burger buns or with salads.


Originally published in Dawn, EOS, January 31st, 2021


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