Project Haggis: Complete
I have been saving my attempt to make Haggis for our last week in Edinburgh! What I really mean is that it has taken me 4 weeks to muster up the courage to make it. I also doubt the camper-van kitchen would be able to hack the making of Haggis!
So what exactly is Haggis? Haggis is a traditional Scottish dish, that is still readily available in restaurants and supermarkets today. These days you can find it served up in spring rolls, crumbed, deep fried and even in a Haggis burger! The ingredients are either a sheep or pig’s heart, lungs and liver, with oats, suet (grated lard) and onions if you wish. This mix is then stuffed into a sheep’s stomach, boiled and pan-fried if you like it crispy. According to my recipe book: the dish is served on Robert Burns’ Anniversary, 25th January and St Andrew’s Day, 30th November, carried aloft on a silver tray by a highlander in full Highland dress, preceded by a piper playing a national air.
The day came when I had to collect the pluck and stomach from the butchers. The butcher brought out the pluck – the healthy looking heart, the plump pink lungs and a liver that was the size of my torso! I couldn’t help but blurt out “that is a huge liver, I think it’s too much!”, he suggested that he halve it and I enthusiastically agreed. It was then time to collect the stomach – he drew out what looked more like a long salty knee-high sock! He cut it in half and bundled it together with the pluck. The whole lot came to $8 – it was the cheapest meal we’ve had here!
I went home and scooped up the pluck into a pot and started it simmering away on the stove top for 1 1/2 hours. The whole flat smelt of cooked offal – pretty awful. In the meantime, I toasted the oats and diced 2 onions. It was now time to dice the pluck – it was fascinating. I felt like I was back in year 9 science again – except this time it was not simply to dissect and inspect – it was to eventually eat my subject! It sliced up surprisingly easily. I then mixed in the onions, oats, suet and water from the pluck stock to make a stodgy mix.
The fun bit came next… stuffing the stomach! I filled the stomach like cream into a piping bag – except with far greater difficulty. The stomach width is pretty narrow so things got rather messy. I then tied up the stomach and simmered it for 3 hours. The stomach was expanding like a balloon and looked as though it was going to explode at any second. To prevent it from bursting, I made a small prick and it shrivelled back down to normal size.
After 3 hours it was time to inspect the results. I was expecting it to slice easily for pan frying – but instead the mix began to ooze out. It did not look appealing at all. We had a wee sample. I was disappointed – it did not look anything like the Haggis we had been living on for the last 4 weeks and tasted somewhat different too. I wrapped it up and placed it in the fridge hoping it would improve. Shannon did offer to help, but he had observed that I had become emotionally attached to the Haggis and decided it was best let me tend to it myself.
The next morning I checked to see if the suet had solidified, making the Haggis easy to slice… to my delight, it had indeed!! I served it up with one of our breaky fry ups. After frying the Haggis it developed a delicious crispiness and a beautiful caramelised flavour – my version was a bit chunkier than the standard Haggis, but I was happy with the flavour and thrilled that it had worked!!
I promised that I would take a sample back to the butchers to show off my handiwork (with a bit of cake too). I proudly presented my cut of Haggis to him! He smiled and commented that I didn’t mince the pluck. Well of course I didn’t mince it!! I am lucky enough that our kitchen even had a pot big enough the cook the darn thing, let alone a mincer. But overall, I think he was pretty impressed. I don’t know if he will actually try it or not – either way I don’t mind, I was just proud that I had something to show. We said our goodbyes and exchanged details. He is even going to read my blog!
That night it was time to serve it up with it’s traditional accompaniments: Neeps and Tatties! A neep is similar to a swede and tatties are what the Scots call potatoes. We were naughty and served it up with a whisky cream sauce too. Fortunately we were stoked with the results, as it’s our dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow as well!
It is Shannon’s last day at the hospital today, and we will soon be off to our next destination – Paris. After recent events we had been reconsidering travelling there, but we carefully deliberated over it during the week and we have decided that we will go. We will pay our respects to the people who lost their lives and enjoy our time there as much as we had always dreamed we would.
I don’t plan to cook from my Scottish cook book over the next week, so you probably won’t be hearing from me until we get back to Scotland (28 Nov), but I promise you we will keep safe. Until then – happy cooking!!