This week, is the annual celebration of the life and work of the great Scottish Bard, Robert Burns. On January 25, Scots and people of Scottish descent and people who just enjoy a good party, will be raising a dram or three of whisky, making speeches and diving into the great Scottish contribution to international cuisine. No, not the deep fried Mars Bar, but the immortal Haggis!
You might not realise that Haggis is a superfood, but we love it! So here is our homage to the “Great Chieftain o the puddin’ -race!”
Best Haggis Cooking Method?
During the traditional Burns supper the poem “Address to a Haggis,” is read. According to the words of the address, the innards of haggis should “gush” out when stuck with the traditional knife. To make its “entrails” do this, means cooking it in the right way.
Many haggis fans now cook their haggis in a microwave oven, which is simple enough to do. But to make the haggis gush requires gentle boiling for around an hour. The contents of the haggis will swell up stretching the outer casing. So when you cut into it with the knife, it bursts open and gushes in a fashion that would make Burns proud.
To round it off properly, haggis needs to be served with Neeps and Tatties(And in my household, brown sauce! Ed.)
Modern Haggis isn’t Sheep’s Stomach
Traditionally, the haggis outer casing was a sheep’s stomach or a “beef bung cap” from the end of a cow’s large intestine.
Today, many haggis manufacturers use synthetic casings made of plastic or cellulose. Into that goes a delicious mix of minced-up sheep’s liver, lung and heart as well as oatmeal, beef suet, onions and seasonings of nutmeg, mace and cayenne.
Haggis is still banned in the US, but no longer in Canada
Since 1971, the US has banned haggis imports. Which makes it rather hard to get for Americans who want a traditional celebration. Americans can buy US-made haggis, but it excludes sheep’s lung, one of the main ingredients. The USDA may lift the ban but so far nothing is happening that we’ve heard.
If you live near the border though, you might be able to get a taste of the real thing as Canada lifted its ban on Haggis imports last year. Go Canucks!
Haggis Is An Ancient Dish
In the words of Burns, haggis is a “puddin’” … A chieftain, no less! Which is no surprise, as it shares many similarities to back puddings and white puddings. Black pudding, or “blood sausage,” is traditionally made with pork blood and oatmeal cased in pig intestine. In white pudding, the blood is replaced with pork fat.
All of these offal sausages and puddings have been made the world over since at least Roman times. Homer’s Odyssey refers to “a man before a great blazing fire turning swiftly this way and that a stomach full of fat and blood, very eager to have it roasted quickly.” Which sounds to us a lot like an early haggis.
Haggis Comes in Many Guises
Because of its strong tasty flavours, haggis makes an excellent stuffing, and is used as a multipurpose ingredient in lots of modern dishes.
Haggis can be found on many high-class menus all year round. A modern favorite is Chicken Balmoral, which is chicken breast stuffed with whisky-soaked haggis and wrapped in bacon.
Another more modern favourite is haggis pakora, which is haggis, deep-fried in light batter. We can’t wait for a full haggis curry to make it to the MyShiftPlanner office!
For those taking part in Veganuary, do not be alarmed! Vegetarians and vegans can now buy good quality offal-free versions of the great haggis. And you can also buy haggis-flavored crisps (potato chips).
Try Your Hand At Haggis Hurling (But not when it’s hot!)
If stuffing a haggis, boiling it, having it bagpiped into your dining room, reciting poetry over it, toasting it with the finest scotch, then stabbing it with a big knife isn’t enough, you can also hurl it … and yes, we do mean throwing!
This doesn’t usually take place at Burns suppers, but is found at Highland games, which take place in Scotland during the summer months.
It’s not an ancient sport, and seems to have started as a practical joke. In our view, it’s a complete waste of a delicious dish … but then, each to their own …
Haggis is a Superfood
You might not believe us, but black pudding was recently labelled a superfood, so we reckon Haggis should be too.
As so called “superfoods” are supposedly foods with greater nutritional value, we reckon that haggis can be ranked with its Black Pudding cousin as a superfood as well. It’s packed with vitamins, minerals and protein. It contains cholesterol-reducing oatmeal, is highly calorie-rich and nutritious, has a low carbohydrate content and contains iron, vitamin A, vitamin B12 and copper.
But of course, that’s not the reason we love it. The real reason is because it’s delicious.
Just remember to lift a dram or two to Rabbie Burns, as well, when you come to toast this great puddin’ this week.