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My Recipe Memoir – Haggis

haggis

Haggis needs little to no introduction but there be no finer fitting way to announce my choice other than the words from the great bard himself: Robert Burns 1759-1796.

ODE TO A HAGGIS

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great Chieftan o’ the Puddin-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang’s my arm

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
You pin was help to mend a mill
In time o’need
While thro’your pores the dews distill
Like amber bead

His knife see Rustic-labour dight,
An’ cut you up wi ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reeking, rich!
Then, horn for horn they stretch an’ strive,

Ye pow’rs wha mak mankind your care,
An’ dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu’ pray’r,
Gie her a Haggis!!

My ongoing adventure with haggis started in 1979 when to earn some pocket money I was encouraged to take a part time job. The only job I could find was in a local butchers “Baynes the Butchers” of Rosyth in Fife. This was not exactly the type of job that a teenage girl had in mind. My duties included cleaning the huge cool room, chopping and mincing the livers, hearts and lites (lungs) for the haggis and my least favourite task, scooping the huge ox tongues out of the enormous tub of freezing cold brown briney water and then netting them.

Over time I began to enjoy the work and became interested in how the butchers used all parts of the animal, including the offal to produce their many different products. They wasted nothing. There were always things to look at or to shock me like the rows of dead rabbits (fur on), geese & chickens (feathers on) or strings of sausages, black puddings or balls of haggis…..all hanging in open air from the ceiling, the shop window or behind the counter. More than anything else I remember the smells – never bad smells just strong meat and spice smells mixed in with lots of sawdust.

Baynes was a very noisy place to work with the constant banter between the butchers and the customers who all shopped there for their meat prior to the small supermarket opening in 1981. You got to know all the customers and what they bought and when. Even the butcher’s dog, a big golden retriever would come into the shop on a Friday afternoon, put his paws up on the counter…….looking for his weekly juicy bone!

It would have to be only in the last 10 to 15 years that I have rekindled my great love of all things offal since growing our own meat on our property for our restaurant. Using every part of the animal is a challenge in itself but turning it into a dish that my customers will order from the menu and hopefully recommend is very difficult! I have created several dishes using haggis over the years and all have been relatively successful. The fact that haggis is on a menu in a fine dining restaurant here in Australia, is an oddity in itself. It is that oddity that gets the better of the customer’s curiosity and helps make the sale.

The first dish of haggis which I created for my menu was with venison offal. I was inspired to use venison offal rather than the traditional sheep offal as history recites that the lairds of the land had haggis made for special banquets from the general culling of deer on their highland properties. Venison offal was perceived as more appropriate for the highland gentry. This dish became so popular it ran on my menu for around five years until the licensing laws changed and venison offal from a NSW deer carcass could only be removed in Victoria. As I was the only customer buying the offal it was no longer cost effective to supply.

the-arty-tart-haggis

Haggis wrapped in venison with straw potatoes, pickled walnuts, port figs, dried cherries, madiera jus.

Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • Pluck from one Deer – heart, liver & lungs (lites) – minced coarsely
  • Pork belly x 1kg finely minced
  • Pearly barley x 150g – cooked but only half way
  • Minced shallots x 150g
  • White pepper x 1 level tablespoon
  • Salt x 3 teaspoons
  • Juniper berries x 10 – crushed
  • I piece of boneless Venison Denver leg meat
  • 10g of bone marrow enzyme
  • Dried Persian figs
  • Pickled walnuts
  • Semi dried cherries
  • Sprig of thyme
  • 2 litres of chicken stock
  • Tomato paste x 1 table spoon
  • Garlic x 4 cloves
  • Red wine x ¾ of a bottle
  • Madeira x 350ml
  • Port x 100ml
  • 1 x large Sebago potato
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Instructions

1

Double line a bain marie with glad wrap with plenty overlapping on all sides. In a large stainless steel bowl mix together your minced offal, minced pork belly, minced shallots, juniper berries & white pepper. Place mixture into the bain and wrap up tightly with the glad wrap then double wrap it in foil. Place on the steam setting of the oven and cook at 100 degrees for an hour. Leave to cool completely or overnight in your cool room.

2

Butterfly your Denver leg so it thinner and wider. Place between two pieces of glad wrap and bash with a meat pounder until you have reformed the meat out into a rectangular shape and about 0.5cm think. Remove the top glad wrap and evenly spread the haggis mixture from the bottom part until about 2/3rds of the way up. Even spread can be achieved with a rolling pin. Sprinkle the bone marrow enzyme along the top line of the meat and then roll the whole thing up from bottom to top using your under side of glad wrap for assistance. Place in cool room to rest and set.

3

For the jus: reduce the beef stock with the red wine, garlic and the tomato paste by about half then add the Madeira and Port reduce until desired consistency. Season.

4

Peel and julienne your potato into iced water until ready to use.

5

Place dried figs into a pot and fill with 50/50 water and pot, bring up to a simmer then leave over night to swell up and absorb the flavour. These are best made at least a week prior to using for maximum flavour.

6

Dice up pickled walnuts & dried cherries.

7

Slice into Venison log and cut a portion then pan sear on a high heat until browned on all sides then place the piece into the oven for 5 mins at 180 degrees. Fry the straw potatoes until crisp, decorate the plate with the cherries, thyme & pickled walnuts, place the venison onto the plate reverse side up, glaze with jus and top with your seasoned crispy straw potatoes.

For hundreds of years cheiftans and Lairds would have killed beasts, usually sheep, on their land and it was the offal that was handed onto the slaughtermen as payment. These labourers often cooked the offal where the beast had been killed over a fire within the stomach casing. This was also practiced as offal spoils far quicker than the meat itself.

Haggis didn’t really come into notoriety until after the bard Robert Burns passed away in 1796. He bestowed upon the haggis great praise and referred to it as being far better than any French ragout or fricassee. Haggis then became synonymous with The Burns Supper where annually Scots from around the world come together to celebrate the poetry of Robert Burns, eat haggis and drink whisky.

Chalres MacSweeens

MacSweens of Bruntsfield 1954

 

The perception that haggis is food for the poor or a “fast” food that is deep fried in batter and served with chips at the local chip shop has shifted dramatically in the last 20 years. MacSweens of Edinburgh started their family butchery in Bruntsfield in 1953 and are Edinburgh’s main manufacturers of haggis. MacSweens butchery exhaust vent was right beside the bus stop where I used to catch my bus to Art College and the warm pungent steam bellowed out onto the street for many years until the popularity of haggis grew into a much broader market and MacSweens moved to a factory space in Loanhead. The MacSween family were the pioneers of taking haggis to the elite with their variety of haggis products, including vegetarian haggis, being stocked in the food halls of Harrods, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Jenner’s. The Macsweens continue to bring haggis into the 21st century with adapting recipes with more contemporary healthier and lighter components.

John MacSween with Haggis products in Selfridges, London 1986

John MacSween with Haggis products in Selfridges, London 1986

 

Traditional “Haggis, Neeps n’ Tatties”.

Traditional “Haggis, Neeps n’ Tatties”.

 

Although its popularity has continued it still had a stigma attached to it as being a cheap food for mainly the working classes. Until I left school in 1982, Haggis, tatties n’neeps, which would be the most traditional way of serving the dish, was still being served at school dinners. It was also used widely as a fried breakfast item with eggs and blackpudding as it was a much cheaper meaty substitute for the expensive Danish bacon, this use didn’t do the humble haggis any favours as it resonated as being unhealthy as it was fried. Haggis was very popular post the 2nd world war as a take away food from the local chip shops, served with chips and wrapped in newspaper it was called a “Haggis Supper”. There were once several of these chip shops in every village and town and they also were a popular place to meet friends and have a chat in a warm space.

Haggis is a unique product that hasn’t really passed through into different cultures or cuisines until recently, it’s more of a product brought from the past into the future. It was poverty and convenience that brought about the high consumption of offal in Scotland and culturally dishes like haggis have remained very strong in the psyche of many generations. Since the 1980’s with the introduction of the fast food franchise and a huge influx of Indian migrants bringing with them their food culture, has had an enormous impact on Scotland’s take away food businesses. The old chippers selling haggis suppers are few and far between these days and have been replaced with curry houses or Indian kebab houses. Interestingly enough, as the second generation of Indian /Scots are taking over their parent’s restaurants, more and more haggis, black pudding and other traditional Scottish ingredients are appearing on their menus. This is more prolific in Glasgow where it is the home of the “haggis samosa”!

haggis-2

 

After making haggis with venison offal I thought I should make it the more traditional way with mutton offal, minced lamb and oats. It is much mealier version and has a good kick of white pepper. I called these tasty wee morsels – haggis bon bons. They are rolled in panko and deep fried. This dish is always well received as a canapé at our functions.

Haggis bon bons with whisky marmalade

Haggis bon bons with whisky marmalade

 

The last dish with haggis is one I made only a few weeks back. It is a three bird haggis made with the offal from my pigeons, ducks and chickens. I decided to make this haggis different again from the others. It is my take on a dish made famous by The Balmoral Hotel called “The Flying Scotsman”!

Cooked 3 bird haggis

Cooked 3 bird haggis

 

Stuffing & rolling the haggis in the chicken.

Stuffing & rolling the haggis in the chicken.

 

what-is-a-haggis

 

While I certainly enjoy the challenge of working with haggis, it is the humour which strangely is always associated with it, that I find uplifting. I don’t think I know of any other man made dish in the world that is the butt of so many jokes, features in so many comic strips and moonlights as a small hairy beastie with one leg shorter than the other…..(so it can run around & around hills!)

haggis-comic

My great love affair with all things offal is to be continued……..

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