Today, January 25th, is Burns’ Night, an annual celebration in Scotland, commemorating the life of poet Robert Burns and Scottish culture in general. “Rabbie” Burns was born on January 25, 1759 and his best known work is the poem “Auld Lang Syne” which is traditionally sung to celebrate the start of the New Year at the stroke of midnight.
If there is one dish that is immediately identified as being Scottish, it is haggis. Contrary to an old yarn, haggis is not a wild animal indigenous to Scotland. It is a spicy mix of sheep’s liver and heart, oatmeal, and spices boiled inside a sheeps paunch. Haggis is traditionally served as “haggis, neeps and tatties”. The neeps are mashed turnip or swede, with a little milk and allspice added. The tatties are creamed potatoes flavoured with a little nutmeg. For an authentic touch, accompany your haggis, neeps and tatties with a dram of good Scotch whisky.
For those of you brave enough to make haggis, here is our chef’s recipe:
1 sheep’s stomach bag
1 sheep’s pluck (lungs, liver and heart)
1 pound lean mutton
1 cup beef stock
1 cup pinhead oatmeal
1 cup shredded suet
2 large onions, chopped
salt and pepper
- Soak the stomach bag in salted water overnight. Place the pluck in a saucepan with the windpipe hanging over the edge. Cover with water and boil for 1 hour. Impurities will pass out through the windpipe – it is advisable to place a basin under it to catch any drips. Drain well and cool. Remove the windpipe and any gristle or skin. Mince the liver and heart with the mutton. (Add some of the lungs before mincing if you wish.)
- Toast the oatmeal gently until pale golden brown and crisp. Combine with minced mixture, suet and onion. Season well and add sufficient stock to moisten well.
- Pack mixture into the stomach bag, filling it just over half full, as the stuffing will swell during cooking. Sew up the bag tightly or secure each end with string.
- Put an upturned plate in the base of a saucepan of boiling water, stand the haggis on this and bring to a boil. Prick the haggis all over with a large needle to avoid bursting and boil steadily for 3 to 4 hours.
Makes 6 to 8 servings