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How to make a haggis from scratch

How to make a haggis from scratch

by Food Urchin 19 January 2017

Danny Kingston bravely rolls his sleeves up and gets elbow-deep in lamb offal, ox bung and oats to discover just how easy it is to make your own haggis.

I spotted a sign hanging at my local butchers recently that proudly displayed the selection of local game they were able to supply. All the usual suspects were there; mallard, pheasant, rabbit and pigeon. Then at the bottom of the list I saw they were also able to get hold of haggis. This was quite reassuring because to be frank, the haggis problem around my neck of the woods is starting to get out of control. Just the other day, I had to chase a pair out of my garden with a rake, as they are fond of digging up bulbs and shrubs. Wee blighters are fast too. As I watched them zip off into the distance, with that horrible shriek they make, I knew they would be back soon enough. So I’ve invested in a large net and plan to lure them in with some cat food (they favour Whiskers) and before long, I will have my own steady supply of haggis to eat.

Of course, haggises aren’t really these cute little woodland creatures that guilefully roam about the countryside. You know that and so do I. But I suspect for some, the idea of tucking into something that was once wild and free, sounds a lot more palatable than the prospect of slicing into a sheep’s stomach casing, stuffed with minced heart, liver and lungs, along with oats and spices. For that is what haggis truly is.

Now I actually love haggis and will gladly consume it throughout the year, without all the pomp and ceremony of having to toast it and hauling the ol’ bagpipes out (in our house, it’s a pink recorder). But there is something nice about eating it specifically for Burns Night. A bit of drama and theatricality at the end of a dreary January, along with some whisky, always goes down well. Normally I go out and simply buy one from the supermarket, but this year I decided to try and make one from scratch, as testimony to doing the whole nose to tail thing properly and in the spirit of adventure.

So I got hold of a haggis kit from Sous Chef, an online emporium of culinary delights and unusual ingredients, and conducted a road test to make sure I got everything right before next Monday. An abridged recipe that came with the kit will follow, but first I thought I should offer a few observations, should you be considering making your very own haggis. And I really think you should.

Pluck
Pluck is a combination of lamb's heart, liver and lungs
Ox bung
Ox bungs are slippery things which smell like blue cheese
  • Ordering pluck is a lot easier than you would expect. Pluck being the informal term for the collection of organs found inside a lamb; the heart, liver and lungs. I had a mild panic attack that I wouldn’t be able to get hold of some, but after a couple of quick calls I was reassured that my pluck would be available within a day or two. I got mine from The Ginger Pig.

  • When you finally get your hands on some pluck, it will test you and your capacity for the visceral nature of cooking. Everything will still be connected via a windpipe and the lungs in particular are challenging to handle. It was heartening though when my children came into the kitchen and asked what I was doing. As I explained with bloodied and shaky hands, they took it all in rather nonchalantly, before scratching their behinds and going back to the TV.

  • Handling the ox bung, the last metre of an ox’s intestine, is very challenging. It smells curiously of blue cheese and is quite slippery to handle after soaking. It also looks just a tad…wrong. But if generations and generations of hardy, tough and slightly psychotic Scots can deal with it, then so can you.

  • A little goes a long way. My wife saw me stuff the bung with practically the whole bowl of ingredients before suggesting that I was only catering for four. And she had a good point. I just wish she had said it sooner rather than later. But yes, smaller haggises are easier to handle and once the component oats begin to swell, you will soon have a lot of haggis to serve.

  • Last of all, if your haggis splits, all is not lost. I had two sat nicely poaching away in some simmering water and decided in my infinite wisdom to turn the heat up. A minute later, I glanced back into the pot to see bits of meat bouncing upon the surface. One had popped but after quickly fishing it out, wrapping it in foil and placing back in, the poor wee haggis didn’t suffer any real ill effect.

Oats
The offal is mixed with oats and spices to make the filling
Haggis
The finished product in all its glory

In fact, the final result was fantastic. Having been able to control the seasoning at my end and add in a few flavours of my own, I would say (smugly) that a homemade effort tastes much better than any shop bought haggis. A fine fair proposition for your honest, sonsie face, to celebrate that great chieftain o’ the pudding-race!

Fancy giving it a go yourself?

Check out my detailed traditional haggis recipe here.

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