What’s that? You don’t know this poem by Robert Burns? And what, you ask, is a haggis?
You may regret asking both of those questions.
Robert Burns was a Scottish poet who lived in the mid-1700s, one of Scotland’s most famous sons. His birthday is January 25th (ie, yesterday) and each year on the night of the 25th, those of a patriotic or poetic nature gather to celebrate the anniversary of his birth with a Burns Night celebration. This would include a) the reciting of Burns’s poem “Address to a Haggis” and, b) the eating of the haggis.
I’ll give you just a sample of the poem, but follow the link if you want to read, or hear, the whole thing from the BBC.
Address to a Haggis
Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o' the pudding-race! Aboon them a' ye tak your place, Painch, tripe, or thairm : Weel are ye wordy o'a grace As lang's my arm. The groaning trencher there ye fill, Your hurdies like a distant hill, Your pin wad help to mend a mill In time o'need, While thro' your pores the dews distil Like amber bead.
And it goes on. Quite a mouthful, this poem.
Now, as for the haggis itself, I remember my husband explaining to me, some years ago, when we were first married, just what a haggis was. I was terrified. His company was having a Burns Night, which we attended, complete with “real” haggis or vegetarian haggis. I chose vegetarian, for many, many reasons. He chose the real thing and, fortunately, he survived the evening. Here’s the recipe; try not to storm your local butcher’s shop for the ingredients.
Here’s what you need:
- 1 sheep’s stomach or ox secum, cleaned and thoroughly scalded, turned inside out and soaked overnight in cold salted water. Alternatively, wrap the meat in tin foil.
- heart and lungs of one lamb
- 1 lb beef or lamb trimmings, fat and lean
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 8 oz oatmeal
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 1 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1 tsp. ground dried coriander
- 1 tsp. mace
- 1 tsp. nutmeg
- enough water to cook the haggis
- stock from lungs and trimmings
Cook the washed lungs, heart and liver with the meat trimmings for about two hours. Strain off the stock and set aside.
Mince the lungs, heart and trimmings.
Put the minced meat in a bowl and add the onions, oatmeal and seasoning. Mix well and add enough stock to moisten. It should have a soft, crumbly consistency. Yum!
Spoon the mixture into the sheep’s stomach or tin foil so it’s half full. Sew up the stomach (or wrap the foil) with strong thread and prick a couple of times so that it doesn’t explode while cooking.
Put the haggis in a pan of boiling water to cover and cook for three hours. Keep adding more water to keep it covered.
To serve, cut open and spoon out the filling. Serve with tatties (mashed potatoes) and neeps (mashed swede or turnip).
Now that you know what you’re making for dinner tonight, all that’s left for me to say is: you’re welcome.