Foods You Should Know: Haggis

I first want to thank every who attended my Robbie Burns Scotch tasting last night as well as the owners and staff of Lord Amherst Public house who were such great hosts and partners in this event. I hope that there can be more tasting events in the future.

Though I am a little bit late for Robbie Burns Day I thought it would be fun to talk about a dish that is tied to Scotland’s favourite son like no other, haggis.

Known for being one of the more divisive dishes in the world haggis, is a mixture of the organ meat of a sheep(Hearts, livers and Lungs), slow simmered with minced onion, oatmeal, lard, suet, salt and a variety of spices*. All of these ingredients are traditionally placed into a sheep’s stomach and simmered for between 3 and 5 hours.

Haggis its self is an interesting eating experience. Organ meat is normally quite dense but because of the long cook time and mixture of other ingredients the meat really breaks down and gets beautifully tender. While the oatmeal and suet provide a great almost nutty crunch to the dish. The spices and herbs along with the fats in the dish make for a rich, complex and very distinct culinary experience that I think everyone should at least try once in their life.

Traditionally haggis is served with neeps and tattes which is old scot for mashed potatoes and turnips. Again an interesting play on texture and flavour with the haggis.Today many mass produced haggis no longer comes in a sheep’s stomach, instead sausage casing is used because it’s shelf life becomes much longer and it’s mass production becomes much easier. Purists of course scoff at this, saying the sheep’s stomach makes for another level of texture and flavour for the dish.

I talk about many different cuisines on this blog and I think that an open mind is the best way to try a new food. Haggis gets a bad reputation** because it contains organ meat which already gets a bad reputation, and it is not a pretty looking dish. But if you want a truly unique culinary experience I recommend at least trying haggis.

*Black pepper, thyme, sage, parsley

**I personally blame it’s depiction in the classic children’s cartoon Duck Tales where Scrooge McDuck forces it on his Nephews.