Scottish Cuisine: Haggis

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Haggis is a traditional Scottish highland dish that resembles, in some senses, a rather rough sausage. It is the national dish of Scotland, and Robert Burns, the great Scots poet, who wrote the famous “Address to a Haggis” called the haggis the “chieftain o’ the puddin-race.” It is a staple of Scottish cuisine, and is served in the traditional manner, as well as in the “haggis supper” (deep fried haggis with a side of French fries) or even as a haggis burger. It is sold prepared in supermarkets year round. But what is actually in this mysterious and oft-misunderstood food?

Though the traditional response to the question “what is a haggis?” is often answered with a joke about a small highland animal with one pair of legs shorter than the other (to more easily circle the highland hills), the truth is that it is a food designed to let no part of the animal go to waste – hence its popularity amongst the poor in the days of Burns.

While it is sometimes made of deer, the haggis is more often based on sheep. It is a combination of oatmeal and several meats. Normally, the sheep’s “pluck” or offal is removed, including heart, liver, and lungs (or “lights”). This is ground, heavily spiced, and combined with onion, suet, spices, and salt. The oatmeal and the other ingredients are mixed with stock and stuffed inside a sheep’s stomach. This is the haggis, and it is then boiled and served. Of course, in modern times, a real stomach is just as often replaced with an artificial casing, and vegetarian-friendly ingredients may replace meat and offal.

Haggis is often served with “neeps and tatties” A “neep” is swede, or rutabaga, and is shortened from “Swedish turnip.” Tatties are mashed potatoes. Of course, haggis would not be complete without a “dram” of whisky to wash it down, a tradition referred to as “neeps and nips”.

Traditionally, haggis is served at Burns Suppers, on January 25 of each year. That these events, someone recites the “Address to a Haggis.” It is then doused with a shot of Scotch whisky and cut with a dirk, a large knife that is a traditional highland sidearm. Often, the haggis is paraded in with a bagpiper. (more…)

Best Traditional Scottish Scones Recipe

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009
A fresh batch of homemade English buttermilk s...
Image via Wikipedia

The Best traditional Scottish Scones Recipe will produce delicious, large, light scones that melt in the mouth when eaten. The whole of the United Kingdom is famous for its scones, but I still maintain that Scottish cooks produce the best. You will find many different varieties, from plain scones, fruit scones, cherry scones, date scones and savoury cheese scones. You can buy them in Bakers’ Shops and supermarkets everywhere, and I doubt if you will find a coffee shop in the land, which does not have scones on the menu. Restaurants which serve the traditional Scottish ‘High Tea’ will almost always have freshly-baked scones as part of the meal.

Of course in Scotland we also have other ‘scones’ which are totally different, such as the Potato Scone (probably the Scottish equivalent of Hash Browns) which is usually served with a cooked breakfast; and we also have ‘drop scones’, which are made with a batter-like mixture using a griddle (or girdle) but are called Scotch Pancakes. There are other types of scones such as Treacle Scones, Soda Scones, and whole-meal scones. All of these as well as Potato (or Tattie) Scone and the Drop Scone are not what I am describing as a traditional Scottish Scone. (more…)

Classic Scottish Recipes

Saturday, December 12th, 2009
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If British recipes are, undeservedly, the joke of European cuisine, then Scottish cookery bears the brunt of British culinary jokes with tales of deep-fried pizzas and chocolate bars. The reality, of course, is very different and the Eastern port cities of Scotland have a long association with France and have been influenced by French cuisine for many centuries.

In contrast, the Highlands of Scotland offer simpler but more traditional fare. The cookery of a poor populace, eking out a living. Here I present two dishes. One a traditional ‘peasant’ dish and the other a rich traditional cake. (more…)