Burns Night Prep – All Things Haggis
This coming Saturday is perhaps the biggest day of the year for Scottish cooking – Burns Night is the day in which the Scots skill for bashing turnips and squeezing minced sheep offal into an animal’s stomach bag is celebrated the world over. An absolute culinary essential to any Burns Night supper is the mighty haggis, a savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, and salt, and finally encased in a sheep stomach, or as is more common today, sausage casing. In preparation for Burns Night on Bletherskite, last week I talked all about the supper itself, and this week it’s all about the fare..
Before I came to Scotland I wasn’t quite sure on which side of the Haggis fence I stood. I’m partial to mutton, and I absolutely love oats. However I was also a vegetarian for just over ten years, so the thought of the insides of a sheep minced together in a stomach sack was enough to have me feeling just a little queezy/traitorous. But I’m also not usually one to turn my nose up at something new to try, so low and behold within my first week of being in Scotland the famous delicacy was on offer at dinner at a friends house. My first experience was quite an odd one – I was served carbonara where the pancetta was substituted with haggis. And I absolutely loved it.
Since then I’ve had haggis on pizza, haggis nachos, haggis crisps, vegetarian haggis served on top of a roasted portobello mushroom, and last but not least, the kingpin of traditional Scots fare, ‘Haggis, Neeps and Tatties’. And I’m not alone in my love for this unlikely delicacy – demand is enormous inside and outside of Scotland, and goes through the roof when Burns Night approaches at the end of each January. UK sales of haggis have steadily increased for a number of years, rising from £6.387m to £8.778m in just two years from 2007 to 2009.
In an interview with BBC Food, leading haggis producer Jo Macsween of Macsweens of Edinburgh said they do about 30% of their annual haggis turnover in two weeks, with 50% of their stock heading south of the Scottish border. “We’ll be doing about 2 million portions of haggis in January alone… There’s a very high predominance of Londoners loving haggis, people say, ‘that’s because there are a lot of Scots in London’, well, there can’t be that many… Outside Edinburgh, London is the next biggest haggis eating city in the UK.”
Consumers are also becoming increasingly more adventurous in their haggis consumption – Edinburgh based Cosmo Products Ltd recently added a ‘Haggis Pizza’ to its range of luxury pizzas. It’s the UK’s only retail haggis pizza, and is topped with Macsweens Haggis, alongside the more traditional Italian toppings of tomato and mozzarella. Upon launch of the pizza, Cosmo paid tribute to Robert Burns in its own inimitable style, with a one-off pizza portrait of the bard fashioned in haggis.
Generally regarded to be as Scottish as it comes, the origins of Haggis are surprisingly a hotly contested issue. Last year an English Historian made headlines when he declared the meal an English delicacy, claiming the origins of the dish are as made up as tartan. Others believe the dish is French in origin and stems from the time of the Auld Alliance, with the name ‘haggis’ coming form the French word ‘hachis’ which means ‘minced meat’. However most agree the word come from the Scots word ‘hag’ which means to chop or to hack.
Finally below, a quick roundup of the best of Haggis on the web. Whatever your plans for Burns Night this year, we hope it’s a good one! Slàinte mhòr!
- How to Make your Own Haggis – Recipe which includes a step by step photo guide by The Guardian
- Recipe for Vegetarian Haggis – sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s surprisingly gaining in popularity!
- Where to find the best Haggis in the UK – a guide by USA Today
- Buying Haggis in the USA – Haggis is currently banned from import to the states, however the ban looks likely to be lifted later this year.