Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!
- Robert Burns
To the best of my knowledge I don’t have any Scottish heritage. I did grow up in Wales (so arguably have that Celtic thing in common with the Scots), but that’s as far as it goes. So when the June Daring Cooks’ challenge was revealed to be Haggis, it was something I’d never made before – though I have sampled its delights once or twice during New Year festivities while living in Britain.
The first challenge in making haggis was that my better half does not eat any sort of offal/organ meats – however, I was able to take on the challenge when she was out of town for one weekend. The second challenge was procuring the starting materials, including lamb liver, lamb heart and beef suet. I managed to track down the first two at a Halal butcher in San Francisco:
No such luck with the beef suet, so I substituted some home-cured smoked fennel and pepper bacon. Since we keep this in the freezer, it was hard enough that I could shred it on a food grater:
So, on with the show… here is my recipe, scaled down from that provided by Ruth, our Daring Hostess:
2 lamb hearts
12oz lamb liver
2 medium onions
2 1/2 oz steel-cut oats
2 oz bacon fat, shredded
1 tablespoon chopped sage
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
pinch each of allspice and clove
Peel the onions but leave them whole. Put the hearts, liver and onions in a pan, cover with cold water and bring to a boil.
Remove the froth from the top, drain the pan and add more cold water. Bring back to the boil and simmer for 40 minutes.
Reserve ~1 cup of the pan water. Put the liver, hearts and onions in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped and mixed. Add the oats, bacon fat, sage and spices and mix well. Add a little of the pan water so that the mixture is still solid but soft.
Stuff the mixture into 2 sections of beef middle, each ~8” long. (Warning – if you plan to follow this recipe, read on to see how it turned out first!) Simmer the haggises in water for up to 2 hrs.
So what happened? I knew that the haggis would expand on cooking, but the beef middles were not as expandable and resilient as I had hoped. I checked in after about an hour and this is what I found…
Boom goes the haggis! The filling from one of them escaped into my pot of boiling water; I was able to salvage the other one, and continued to steam it until it too started to rip apart some more.
Served with ‘neeps’ (aka turnips in Scotland, swede in the rest of Britain and rutabagas in America), as shown at the top of the page. These were not the best rutabagas in the world – they are a rarity in San Francisco at the best of times, and early summer is not the best of times. Although they were a bit woody, the taste wasn’t bad. As for the haggis – I would say not bad for a first attempt, despite the exploding casing debacle. Although the liver flavor was pronounced, there was a subtle smokiness, which may have come from the bacon. If I make it again I will probably use the steamed pudding technique (fill it into a mould and cook in a water bath/bain-marie) and I think I’d increase the amount of oatmeal – there wasn’t quite enough chewiness for my taste. But then again I didn’t include the suet, which I’m sure would have made a difference in the final product.
The June Daring Cooks Challenge was hosted by Ruth from Makey-Cakey. She brought out the Daring-est of Daring Cooks and challenged us to make real Scottish Haggis.
Thanks to Ruth for an entertaining challenge – it was definitely daring!