Why is it that when Scotland’s national drink is enjoyed and revered the world over, love it or loathe it, haggis is firmly established as Scotland’s national dish – to the extent that it has become an indelible part of the nation’s cultural identity, along with whisky, bagpipes and shortbread.
Ask any Scotsman the age-old question “What is a haggis?” and his reaction is like…“It’s a small four-legged creature that lives in the Highlands and has two legs shorter than the others so it can run around the mountains without toppling over. You must get them on to a flat plain – then they are very easy to catch – because they can only run round in circles.”
According to a 2003 online survey, one-third of American tourists to Scotland think the haggis is a wild animal and a quarter of travelers to Scotland think they can catch one!
So, if you want to preserve your belief in these little furry creatures, you can buy tickets for a “Wild Haggis Hunt“.
Haggis, a Scottish national dish, a kind of pudding composed of the liver, heart and lung pie of a sheep (or other animals), chopped and mixed with beef or lamb and oatmeal and seasonings with onions, cayenne peppers, and other spices. Haggis is often used with vegetables; Also called haggis with grated tatties (potatoes) and turnips (radishes). The mixture is packed into a sheep’s stomach and boiled. It was often used by the poor in Scotland as a filling and nutritious dish.
To a little more precise and traditionally boiled in the stomach of the animal for about an hour.
Modern-day haggis is served in artificial casings instead of the sheep’s stomach. Fast food establishments deep fry it in batter and serve it with chips. Higher class restaurants serve it stuffed in chicken breast, a dish called “The Flying Scotsman”.
The exact historical origins of this great national dish seem to have been lost in the fog of time. There are much folklore about haggis. The wives of Scottish cattle drovers were said to prepare rations for the men in preparation for the cattle drive to the market in Edinburgh. Another story says that when a Chieftain or Laird had a sheep or cow killed for its meat, the workmen were given the offal as a way of thanking them.
Have you ever wondered what haggis is and what made of it, whether something that often looks very attractive can really taste good? In Scotland, it formerly was considered a rustic dish and was so celebrated in Robert Burns’s lines “To a Haggis” (1786), but in the 21st-century haggis is served with some ceremony, even bagpipes, particularly on Burns Night (held annually on January 25, Burns’s birthday) and Hogmanay, as the Scots call their New Year’s celebrations. Scottish whiskey is a common drink served with the traditional haggis.
Early English recipes
With the advent of the printed in the 15th and 16th centuries, there are the first references to the early forms of the word “haggis”.
Food historian Catherine Brown claims the dish was invented by English, citing the reference to “haggas” in a book called English Hus-Wife, dated 1615. In the book, author Gervase Markham call it “small oatmeal mixed with the blood and liver of sheep, calf, or pig, making that pudding. ”
Brown added that the first mention she could find of Scottish haggis was in 1747.
Opponents of her statement cite the poem ‘Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy,’ written before 1520 and referring to ‘haggeis’. However, there are older haggis recipes than these examples, even before the Johannes Gutenberg press.
Haggis Shepherds Pie with Scotch Lamb
1 Tbsp Scottish Rapeseed Oil
1 medium Onion, finely chopped
1 large Carrot, finely chopped
500g Scotch Lamb Mince
1 Lamb Stock Cube
75g Petit Pois
500g turnips (Swede)
How to cook and serve haggis:
1. Gently simmer in water for 50 mins per 500g.
2. Bake in a lidded casserole dish with a splash of water at 190C/170C fan/gas 5 for 1 hr. Or, to microwave, cook on medium for 9 mins, turning once.
3. Once the haggis is very hot, cut a cross in the middle and spoon out the filling.
Though haggis may not have originated in Scotland, it is now so much a part of Scotland that has become a true Scottish dish. Not only that, it is utterly delectable. The proof is in the pudding…