It will soon be 25 January; it's the night when normally sane people decide it would be a fantastic idea to eat some minced offal with lots of herbs and spices cooked in a sheep's stomach and wash it down with some whisky. Yes, Burns Night is upon us very, very soon. The day we celebrate the birth of great Scottish poet Robert Burns who was fond of a haggis or two! 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-reekin, rich! - Robert Burns, Address to a Haggis I was lucky enough to speak to Jock Gibson whose family have been producing haggis up in the Scottish Highlands for the past 25 years. However, it was only in recent years that their Macbeth's haggis received some Great Taste Gold Awards. I asked him what had happened, how could a dish that initially sounds grim, even when Rabbie Burns describes it, win awards for taste! "Our haggis has a much higher meat content than most people think" said Jock. "In the past haggis was 90% offal and 10% meat, but we decided to switch things around and this made all the difference. We still use some offal and like most butchers use natural skins or "bungs" as they are called in the trade. Some supermarkets use sythnthetic skins, as they are much tougher than sausage skins and are needed to withstand a high heat as the haggis is cooked". I asked Jock how hard the haggis was to cook, as I wouldn't know where to start. "It's the easiest thing in the world to cook. Simply wrap it in tin foil, put in simmering water and cook for 45 minutes to an hour. Alternatively you can over cook it in a water bath". "We've actually started to produce a slicing haggis that you can just grill instead. It's exactly the same recipe as our traditional haggis but came about from requests from chefs at hotels & restaurants who wanted a faster & slightly neater way to serve the dish." Apparently this is also great to use as a stuffing and works beautifully inside chicken breasts. I mentioned to Jock that one of our food bloggers was going to try cooking some vegetarian haggis. After Jock had stopped laughing he said "I imagine Robert Burns would turn in his grave to hear that." Actually, we had a very heated debate over on Great British Chefs Facebook page in response to Monica's post on the Vegetarian Haggis and not everyone was against the idea! But for those who really cannot face haggis, do not fear. At Great British Chefs we've put together a Scottish themed collection of recipes for Burns Night from our award-winning chefs (it includes the delicious Gratin of Scottish Raspberries by Edinburgh's Martin Wishart) so you can still celebrate Burns Night without a haggis.
The Joys of Haggis - Burns Night with Great British Chefs
Friday 20 January 2012