If you live in the Highlands, you might be lucky enough to catch your own haggis. They are funny little creatures and have shorter legs on one side of their body, an evolutionary adaptation helping them run around the outsides of the mountains. Be careful though as they can bite and are best avoided during the haggis mating season in the Spring when they can be particularly ferocious!
Haggis is traditionally eaten in Scotland on Burns Night which is on or around 25th Jan. Robert Burns was a famous Scottish poet from the 1700’s and is widely regarded as the National Poet of Scotland. He was born in Alloway, Ayrshire near where we live. At Halloween they have lots of local events in the area and usually decorate his cottage with spiders and fake cobwebs because some of his poems involved dark macabre references to ghouls and witches.
A Burns Night Supper can be formal or informal and involves an address to the haggis, lots of reading of Burns poetry, maybe some bagpipes, the haggis dinner of course and plenty of whisky! I went to one a couple of years ago and the haggis was ceremoniously brought in on a large silver platter with bagpipes playing and lots of cheering…..although the amount of noise might have had something to do with the whisky consumption!
As a live haggis is difficult to find, I made my own his year. Hubby got me a haggis kit for Christmas which contained the haggis casings, vegetable suet and a mix of mostly oatmeal plus some rice flour and various spices. I’m not sure what spices were in my kit mix but traditionally mace, nutmeg and black pepper are used. The casing was usually a sheep’s’ stomach but mine was a synthetic casing. You might be able to buy these at your local butcher. I just had to add the meat plus a little onion but was pretty excited at the prospect of making my own!
I first ate haggis when I relocated to Scotland about 5 years ago and absolutely loved it. Traditionally, haggis is served at a Burns Supper with neeps (turnip or swede) and tatties (potatoes) but I also enjoy haggis with a fried breakfast and once had it stuffed in a baked potato with grated cheese at a fabulous Edinburgh Cafe.
You might sometimes be lucky enough to see Haggis Bon Bons or Fritters on a restaurant menu and oh WOW they are delicious, occasionally served with a whisky sauce!
If you fancy making your own haggis my recipe is below. Otherwise you can buy a good quality haggis at some local butchers or a Simon Howie haggis is pretty good, sold in many supermarkets. Just make sure you pick up a bottle of whisky while you are in there to drink while cooking and during your supper!
It did take a bit of preparation to make this but it was well worth it and tasted amazing!
450g of meat, eg lamb mince, lamb’s heart and lamb’s liver (roughly equal amounts of each)
100g of vegetable suet
a quarter of a medium onion, finely chopped
200g of oatmeal (you can also a little rice flour to make up the 200g or just use all oatmeal)
a level teaspoon each of nutmeg, mace and black pepper
half a teaspoon of salt
stock reserved from cooking the meat (enough to mix the stuffing to a paste)
2 Haggis casings (mine were approx 20cm long and 7 cm in diameter)
First I soaked the casings in water for half an hour. Traditionally sheep’s stomachs were used but my kit contained synthetic casings.
I roughly chopped the meat then simmered it in enough water to cover for around 15 min. I then drained the meat but saved the stock.
I minced the cooked meat in my food processor then mixed with the vegetable suet, the chopped onion plus the oatmeal, salt and spices.
I then added just enough of the reserved stock to make a soft mixture which I stuffed into 2 casings. It’s important to have a glass a whisky to sip while you do this!
I tied the ends of each haggis tightly and wrapped in foil, then simmered gently in a pan of water for around half an hour. My recipe made 2 haggi, each was a 20cm long and sausage shaped but for a larger round haggis, it might need up to an hour of cooking.
Once cooked I split open the casings with a knife and scooped out the filling to serve with mashed neeps (swede) and tatties (potatoes).
Tip you can reheat any leftover haggis the next day by removing the mix from the casing and heating in the microwave.
For extra special presentation for a dinner party