Haggis is the national dish of Scotland and it is extremley tasty. What was that? you want to know what it is. Well, Haggis is a wild animal that roams the hills of Scotland and the easiest way to catch them is to run round a hill anti-clockwise, as they have one set of legs longer than the other and can only run round hills clockwise. What? you don’t believe me. Well, that’s the story we tell tourists to keep them happy. Okay it is a type of sausage. Now that’s out of the way, we’ll carry on. What? you want to know what is in it. Well it’s made from lamb and that’s all you need to know. Really, that’s all that most people want to know about what’s in haggis. Well, it is made from sheep’s pluck, oatmeal, minced onion, suet, spices, and salt. Now lets move on. Okay, okay, are you really sure you want to know? A sheep’s pluck is the heart, liver and lungs, and I forgot to say the whole thing is stuffed into a sheeps stomach. I told you, it’s is better just to think of haggis as made from sheep and leave it at that. But nevertheless it is very tasty.
Haggis is a dish born out of necessity, to use the whole animal, and preparations like haggis probably go back to ancient times as a way to preserve the the offal, which goes off very quickly. Once cooked, a haggis then becomes a portable way of transporting food that doesn’t go off as quickly. The word haggis probably comes from the Old Norse word ‘haggw’ or the Old Icelandic word ‘hoggva’ which means ‘to hew or strike with a sharp object’ which probably relates to the chopping up the contents of the haggis.
In Scotland, Haggis is quite easy to find, but apart from St. Andrew’s (Patron Saint of Scotland) night and Burn’s (Robert Burns – The bard of Scotland) night it probably isn’t eaten that often, but as an expat I probably eat more haggis being away from Scotland, than I do when living there. Unfortuntely, haggis was banned from being imported into the US by the USDA up until recently, so various versions from beef haggis to ones being made under license in the US have sprung up instead, but they usually come in cans. You can buy Haggis in the US here
In case you can’t get a hold of fresh haggis or tins, here is a recipe for haggis as well as one for vegetarians.
- 1 sheep’s stomach
- 1 sheep’s pluck – liver, lungs and heart
- 3 onions
- 250g beef suet (kidney fat)
- A pinch of cayenne pepper
- 5oz (150g) steel cut or pinhead oats
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 5oz (150ml) of stock (the cooking liquid from boiling the pluck)
First clean the stomach thoroughly, soak it overnight and then turn it inside out. Wash the pluck and then boil for 1.5 hours. Mince the heart and lungs, grate half the liver, chop the onions and suet. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. You may need to add a little more stock to make the mixture easier to move. Half fill the stomach with the mixture and tie off the end with some butchers string. Boil the haggis for 2 to 3 hours, pricking the casing if nesecarry because of air bubbles. Serve with mashed neeps (yellow turnip/rutabagas), tatties (potates) and a wee dram of whisky. Try adding some carrots to the neeps for a better flavour.
Vegetarian haggis recipe
- 4 shallots, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
- 1oz (30g) butter
- 2.5oz (75g) mushrooms, chopped
- A pinch of cayenne pepper
- 0.5 tsp ground cinnamon
- 0.5 tsp allspice
- A grate or 2 of nutmeg
- 3 carrots, peeled and grated
- 2.5oz (75g) red lentils
- Zest of a lemon
- Pint (500ml) vegetable stock
- Small bunch of rosemary, leaves stripped and finely chopped
- Small bunch of thyme, leaves stripped
- 0.5 tin of red kidney beans, rinsed and mashed
- 2oz (50g) pinhead oatmeal
Sauté the garlic, onions and mushrooms in butter until soft. Add the spices and cook for a few minutes, then add the lentils, lemon zest, carrots and stock. Cook until the lentils are soft. Add the kidney beans and oatmeal, adding a little stock if required. Cook over a low heat until the oats have plumped up. The consitency should be quite firm. Season to taste. Serve with neeps and tatties.