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Haggis 101

haggis, robbie burnsHaggis, the national dish of Scotland and official entrée at Robert Burns Day dinners around the world every 25th of January is typically rolled out only once a year because – let’s face it – the ingredient list is not exactly enticing.

A mixture of sheep offal (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, steel-cut oats, suet and spices, the sausage-like mixture is stuffed into a sheep’s stomach before being steamed much like a Christmas pudding. The result is a sort of grey-tan blob that’s peeled and carved into slices, much like a Scottish-style meatloaf. It’s no wonder haggis has been used as much as for comedic relief (think of Mike Meyers’ love interest, Harriet – Harry-ette – hard-hearted harbinger of haggis – in So I Married an Axe Murderer) as it has been for nourishment. Previous to Mike Meyers’ haggis usage, it was memorialized in Robert Burns’ 1787 poem Address to a Haggis.

But really – it’s not that disgusting.

The 2001 edition of Larousse Gastronomique sums it up: “Although its description is not immediately appealing, haggis has an excellent nutty texture and delicious savoury flavour.”

It is truly similar to a meatloaf and a great way to use up all the animal parts that aren’t as appealing cooked on their own. But most recipes morph over centuries, utilizing new ingredients that are more readily available or more appetizing to new generations of cooks. So why not haggis? You really don’t need a sheep’s stomach.

New-School Haggis

adapted from Simply Elegant

1/4 lb beef liver
1 cup steel-cut oats
1/2 lb lamb shoulder, finely chopped
1/2 lb ground beef or bison
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 onions, coarsely grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1 cup beef stock
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 300°F. Place the liver in a saucepan half filled with cold water; bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes, then set aside to cool. Once cool enough to handle, finely chop the liver.

Toast the oatmeal in a dry skillet set over medium heat until pale golden and fragrant. Place in a medium pot with 2 cups water or stock, bring to a boil and cook for 40 minutes, until tender.

In a large bowl, combine the cooked oats, liver, lamb, beef, butter, onions, garlic, nutmeg, coriander and beef stock; season with salt and pepper and mix everything well using your hands. Transfer to a buttered oven-proof glass or Pyrex bowl and cover tightly with foil.

Place in a roasting pan and pour in water until it comes three-quarters of the way up the side of the bowl. Cook for 3 hours. To serve, remove the foil, place a plate over the bowl and flip it over; serve haggis in wedges, with neeps and tatties (mashed turnips and potatoes).

Photo credit: istockphoto.com/Xtelle

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