Of all the national dishes in the world, haggis is one of the more infamous. You may have heard the story that the wild and elusive haggis can be hunted in the foothills of the Scottish Highlands, much to the amusement of the Scots.
In reality though, haggis is traditionally made by stuffing the stomach of a sheep with offal (sheep’s organs), onion, oats, and spices. Haggis might not appeal to many, and it sometimes ends up as the butt of jokes, but to Scotland it’s a source of much national pride.
There is no mistaking that it isn’t the prettiest of foods to look at, with an appearance rather like an over-stuffed and very round sausage. And you wouldn’t be wrong in thinking that, as these days it is more common to find haggis enclosed within a sausage casing instead of a more rustic sheep’s stomach. But inside, haggis quite literally bursts with flavour. When opened and served, the loose crumbly texture is just like spiced minced meat and it combines easily with vegetables.
A properly prepared haggis is a wonderful thing, full of flavour and perfect for a frosty January evening. Burns Night, held every year on January 25th, marks the birthday of Scottish poet Robert Burns, born in 1759. Burns wrote the ode ‘Address to a Haggis’ which has led to haggis forming part of the traditional annual celebrations, along with a reading of the poem itself.
If you’re thinking of holding a Burns Night dinner, then here are some of our top tips:
- It takes a while to properly cook a fresh haggis, so make sure you leave enough time to allow the haggis to gently simmer in the pot. It is also possible to get hold of pre-cooked haggises which can be microwaved in just minutes.
- Unless you are bravely making it from scratch, try and source the best quality haggis that you can find. The better versions are more full with meat, while the cheaper ones tend to contain more filler like oats.
- Neeps and tatties are the best friends of haggis, and more commonly called mashed turnips and mashed patatoes. No Burns Night dinner is complete without the tripartite of haggis, neeps, and tatties.
- Haggis is the hero of any meal, and it should be brought to the table with much ceremony – accompanied by bagpipes if possible – before being sliced open and served. Celebratory toasts and speeches follow the serving of the haggis and, of course, whisky is never too far from the table.