Plan to celebrate Robbie Burns Day with Haggis!

Well… Robbie Burns Day – a Scottish national celebration – was observed in our house this past weekend as usual. But, for the first time, we had a real, home-made Haggis! If you’re so inclined, you can have one, too! Start planning now for January 25 next year…

Maggie's 2014 Haggis - © Maggie J'sMy Burns Day Feast, 2014: Haggis with Tatties and Neeps.
Got to the Italian grocery too late to get Chicken Livers and had to
settle for Pork, hence the darker overall colour…

Haggis the old way…

Haggis is said to have come across from Denmark with the Vikings, even before there was a Scotland, as such. But is has since become Scotland’s national dish and the Danes don’t seem to mind having given up ownership. The Haggis of old was a poor man’s meal, designed yo use up all the leftover parts of a sheep after the best cuts had been harvested. It was a hard life in the Highlands, and nothing went to waste. That left the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys and stomach of the sheep. What the heck do you do with that? You make a big sausage, using the stomach as the casing, is what you do!

In the classic recipe, the organ meats are thoroughly cleaned and blanched, then finely chopped and mixed with herbs and spices and a good deal of oatmeal before being stuffed into the stomach. The instruction then is to sew up the stomach tightly and simmer the thing for three hours.

I know what you’re thinking. But the spices made it palatable. So we’re told.

Haggis my way…

My modern Haggis recipe is simpler than the traditional one and much tastier. That may be, in part, because it uses actual Lamb shoulder meat. Organ meats still play a part, of course, but I prefer chicken livers (usually available from your local Italian grocery). Pork or Calf’s liver may also be used, but the flavour is much heavier and the Haggis comes out much darker in colour. Regardless of the kind of liver I use, I stick pretty close to the traditional mix of herbs and spices.

So, without further ado, here’s the recipe:

Salami or Cappocolo casing (Cappocolo gives you a nice, round, pillow-shaped Haggis)
1 lb (450 g) Boneless Lamb Shoulder, or ‘Lamb Stew’ trimmings
1 lb (450 g) Chicken Livers
1 medium Onion, finely chopped
1 cup (250 ml) Rolled Oats
1 Tbsp (15 ml) Salt
1 tsp. (5 ml) Black Pepper
1 Tsp. (5 ml) ground Coriander
1 Tsp. (5 ml) ground Mace
1 Tsp. (5 ml) ground Nutmeg
1 Tsp. (5 ml) Thyme

Run the Lamb and Livers through a meat grinder or buzz them in the food processor at medium until they are well broken down – but not pureed. We need ome definite texture to make the Haggis come out right and serve properly.

Put the meats together in a large steel bowl. Add the Onion and Rolled Oats. Mix well. love up and use your hands, for best results. Don’t mix the Haggis filling in the bowl of your stand mixer; the mixing paddle will mush up the meat too much.

Soak the casing in a bowl of cold water for an hour, to wash off the salt it comes packed in, before attempting to stuff the Haggis. Find an end, open it up and run cold water from the tap through it to open it all the way and make it flexible.

Use a sausage stuffer, a piping bag or just a spoon and your hands to push the mixture into the casing. Stand the Haggis on end and gently tamp down the mixture until it fits the casing snugly with no air pockets. Cut off the casing about 4 in. above the top of the meat mixture and tie it off close to the top of the meat mix with a good, hard knot. Make sure you punch a small hole in the casing to let an y air or excess moisture escape. otherwise, the Haggis may explode while cooking!

(Of course, you could just skip the casing and form the meat mixture into a meatloaf, and roast off as usual, tightly covered with foil…)

Place in boiling water (enough to cover the Haggis about 3/4 of the way up) and then turn down to a spirited simmer for 3 hours, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the middle of the thing reads at least 160 F. (Start checking the internal temperature after i.5 hours.)

While the Haggis is cooking, make some mashed or boiled Potatoes and steam up some cubed Yellow Turnip (Rutabaga) until just tender. Finish the Turnip by tossing in a little Butter, Salt and pepper just before serving.

Place the Haggis – Robbie Burns’ ‘Chieftain o’ the Puddin’ race’ – in the centre of a small platter and place Potatoes and Turnips around it. Pierce the Haggis at its centre with a small dagger (I use a sword-shaped letter opener) and leave the blade in for presentation. Have a Bagpiper serenade the Haggis to the dining table, if you have one handy. carve with a sharp carving knife.

And there you have it!

Haggis with Tatties and Neeps! And remember: On Burns Day, everyone is Scottish!


~ Maggie J.