The National Dish of Scotland

The English have a pudding based culinary history.  As you look through the basic meal in an English household, you are going to see a pudding on the menu at some point during the day – week – month.  Also, across the pond they have a very lose interpretation on the word pudding.  Here in america, when I think pudding, I think of a box with the word Jello on it… preceded by the word instant.  In the UK, pudding can be savory or sweet and have fancy names like Yorkshire pudding, Liver Pudding (liver mush in the US), Steak and Kidney Pudding, Spotted Dick and of course, Haggis. Yes the haggis is considered a pudding of sorts.

haggisThe sheep and the art of shepherding has affected not only the economy of the people of Scotland but the food that they have developed and added to the world culinary scene.The National Dish of Scotland is no different, haggis at its base is sheep organs inside another sheep organ.  Traditionally this is the heart, lungs and liver of a sheep minced, mixed with onions and put in the sheep’s stomach and cooked for several hours.

It is difficult to pin the birth of haggis to any one time period or even to any one set of people, many other cultures have been preparing haggis style dishes for centuries but, being of good Scottish blood I am saying that we started it and will have words with anyone that says different.  The preparation of Haggis is like so many techniques that lower working classes use all over the globe with their food.  Lets face it, if you are a drover and you are working with herd animals you don’t want to lose any of the edible parts. And you are hungry enough – you make haggis. Being able to use the internal organs and pack them in yet another internal organ, making them easy to carry, and you have food from parts you might not have eaten otherwise.

Haggis a wonderful solution to using all the parts of the sheep.

Address to a Haggis – Robert Burns
Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But, if Ye wish her gratefu prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!

My Opinion (for whatever it is worth)
I like haggis… a lot.  I have it at any faire that I attend, whether they be Highland Games or Renaissance.  In America you are going to find it made with liver only, we are not allowed all the sweetbreads.  If you like liver and onions, then this is no different, it is just all minced together.  Expect to get a spoon full of haggis and if they ask you if you want cream sauce, you do.  The flavor is strong and vibrant, it is what kept the Scots going for many, many years.  Try it, get one to split with everyone in your party, if you can pair it with a whiskey, great if not a stout lager will do just fine.

Recipe (this recipe and the photo with the article thanks to Alice the Cook)
Traditional Haggis

  • 1 sheep’s stomach
  • 2 lb. dry oatmeal
  • 1 lb. suet  (Lard will work in this recipe, but suet is better and can be purchased at larger grocery stores)
  •  1 lb. lamb’s liver
  • 2 1/2 cups lamb or beef stock
  • 1 large chopped onion
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper and salt

Mince the onion and liver  and fry them up together in oil.  Lightly brown the oats in the same pan as the liver and onions. Mix the rest of the ingredients together. Fill the sheep’s pluck with the mixture pressing it down to remove all the air, and sew up securely. Prick the haggis in several places so that it does not burst. Place haggis in boiling water and boil slowly for 4-5 hours.  Serves approximately 12.

Note: When we made this dish, we only used a partial stomach.  Some families include other organ meats including heart, lungs, and kidneys and would treat them the same as the liver. 

For more recipes, visit www.alicethecook.com or her facebook page.