Haggis: Small Furry Animal or Traditional Scottish Dish?
Haggis is a pudding considered to be the national dish of Scotland, renowned in local culture and famed for its unusual ingredients. The traditional haggis recipe involves sheep’s heart, liver and lungs mixed with oatmeal, onion, suet and spices – all encased in a sheep’s stomach! Although the ingredients may not tempt the taste buds on first glance, the combination with spices and oatmeal creates a popular dish with a unique flavour and texture.
Traditionally, haggis would be enjoyed with ‘neeps’ (turnips) and ‘tatties’ (potatoes) both of which are mashed with butter to create a soft creamy base that complements the rich taste of haggis. The dish can be enjoyed with a glass of fine Scotch whisky – perfect for a cold winter’s day!
Origins of Haggis
The first similar recipe recorded was, in fact, in the north of England in 1430, where ‘hagese’ was a combination of offal and herbs. The exact history of haggis has been disputed, but one theory suggests the modern form originated in the Scottish Highlands. Scottish women would provide their working men with a meal of leftovers, contained in a sheep’s stomach that could easily be carried on the journey to work. Despite slightly hazy origins, Robert Burns’ poem of 1787, ‘Address to a Haggis’, made the dish particularly famous. Amusingly, popular folklore in Scotland includes stories of haggis being a small furry animal living in the Highlands, rather than a culinary dish!
Haggis is traditionally enjoyed on the 30th November for St Andrew’s Day, and on the 25th January for Burns Night, a celebration of the Scottish poet Robert Burns. During a Burns Supper, the haggis is sometimes ‘piped’ in, that is brought to the table amidst sounds of searing bagpipes played by one of the guests.
Haggis hurling is a popular sport in the Highland Games, which are a series of events held in Scotland and internationally, to celebrate Scottish culture. The aim is to throw the haggis as far as possible, sometimes from standing on top of a whisky barrel!
Today, although most Scots don’t regularly eat haggis with neeps and tatties, it often makes an appearance on menus. In contemporary Scottish restaurants, chicken breast stuffed with haggis and wrapped in bacon is a popular meal. Haggis baji is served in some Indian restaurants and haggis can even be sliced up and added to accompany a delicious cooked breakfast.
If you’re visiting Glasgow, why not make a trip to chic Arisaig near the city centre for mouth-watering haggis, served with a fusion of flavours. In award-winning Whiski, on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, you can enjoy classic haggis along with a selection of malt whiskies in a cosy and fun atmosphere!