Burns and other legends

If I were to describe the delicious, wonderful, humble sausage — all juicy and tender and flavoursome — as a pig’s grissle-bits stuffed in its own intestine, you would probably curl your lip and shudder slightly.

Likewise, if you ever give serious thought to deep-fried chicken livers or steak and kidney pie, noses would wrinkle and appetites rankle.

Lots of people are offput by offal. But I say it’s time to stage a comeback.

Starting with the much maligned, touristy, novelty haggis.

As almost any of my aunts and uncles (most of whom have never set foot on British soil), and anyone who has ever read Lonely Planet Europe will tell you, haggis is a weird Scottish food, made of sheep’s stomach.


That’s just bad hype from misappropriated tourist trivia sources.

It is a lot like sausage – take the offcuts of some delicious creature, and pad it out with delectable herbs, spices and carbs (in this case oats rather than breadcrumbs), and serve piping hot for a stodgy, wonderful wintery meal.

Haggis, when done well (which is rare) is rich and spicy and exotically soothing.

Not, I think, a daily foodstuff but you should try its majestic mouthwatering delights at least once in your life time.

… though for your own piece of mind, don’t do a google image search on it until you swallow. It is possibly the least photogenic food ever, though one of the only ones I know of that has a poem written about it.

And the stomach thing? Haggis is loose and crumbly, like sausage meat or hamburger mince. It’s traditionally poached, so the stomach here is the equivalent to the sausage skin-intestine (though, both sausage and haggis are now usually in artificial casings), and to my knowledge, unlike sausage, the casing isn’t usually eaten.

Plus, while it is delicious with traditional potatoes and turnips/rutabega (neeps and tatties, as per the locals), it also makes a wonderful addition to other meals.

Tom Kitchin’s pork, apple and haggis for a start. And I have a sneaking suspicion it would make an amazing base for stuffing, too.

But why, you may ask, am I so caught up on haggis today?

Because for the first time in my decade of being Scottish, I bought one — and a proper MacSweens one, a company self-styled as Guardians of Scotland’s National Dish.

Friday, you see, is Burns Night, which is generally a celebration of all things Robert Burns for his birthday — poetry, music, haggis of course, and several lashings of whisky (with less womanizing than was his wont, but who’s to say we have to be sticklers for accuracy?).

Burns in shades

And while I don’t go in for the full, old-fashioned Shebang (though a running order of a traditional event can be found here, if you’re into that sort of thing), I figure our Last Burns Night in Scotland deserves celebrating.

We will be eating delightful food, drinking something outstanding and possibly listening to neo-folk tunes.

Perfect for this ungainly blizzardy weather.


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