Friday Foodie Word ~ HAGGIS

Ode to the Haggis:

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin’-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak yer place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’ a grace
As lang’s my airm.

As it’s Burn’s Night, I thought it be fitting to pay tribute to the guest of honor and have today’s foodie be…..



Scotland ~ A sausage made from the minced heart, liver and lungs of a sheep mixed with oatmeal, suet, minced onion, spices, herbs and seasoning, all encased in a sheep’s stomach and boiled prior to being served hot.

Nowadays more commonly stuffed in a plastic casing.  Traditionally served at Burns’ night suppers with tatties (potatoes) and neeps (turnips)*see bottom and washed down with an excess of whiskey, while Burns’ Ode to the Haggis is recited with due ceremony.

I did a post on Burn’s Night last year and you can read more about it here .

Unfortunately, authentic Scottish haggis has been banned in the United States since 1971, when the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) first took a dim view of one of its key ingredients – sheep’s lung.

While millions of people around the world will enjoy a Burns Night helping tonight, those in the US who want to celebrate Scotland’s national bard in the traditional manner are compelled to improvise.

Some choose to stage offal-free Burns suppers, and for most people not raised in Scotland, the absence of the dish might be no great hardship.  But for many expat Scots and Scots-Americans, the notion of Burns Supper without haggis is as unthinkable as Thanksgiving without turkey.

Meanwhile, butchers in the US have tried, and failed, to make their own versions of the pudding without using the vital ingredient: sheep. “It was a silly ban which meant a lot of people have never tasted the real thing,” said Margaret Frost, of the Scottish American Society in Ohio. “We have had to put up with the US version, which is made from beef and is bloody awful.”

So even if you’re not able to tuck into haggis tonight, enjoy your dinner and evening.  After all, you can still enjoy a wee nip of whiskey!

*Chef P just got home and told me he read my blog today…and also corrected me.  Neeps are turnips, not parsnips!  I seem to have a brain fart when it comes to that!

♥  Terri  ♥


The Bard, Haggis and Whiskey

Burns Night is a traditional celebration that takes place to commemorate the life of Robert ‘Rabbie’ Burns, a Scottish poet and lyricist and he is regarded as the national poet of Scotland.  He is also noted for his poem and song Auld Lang Syne.

He was born on this day back in 1759. Burns Night, in effect a second national day, is celebrated tonight with Burns suppers around the world and is more widely observed in Scotland than the official national day, St. Andrew’s Day. The basic format starts with a general welcome and announcements, followed with the Selkirk Grace.

The supper starts with the soup course. Normally a Scottish soup such as Scotch Broth, Potato Soup or Cock-a-Leekie is served.

Everyone stands as the main course is brought in. This is always a haggis on a large dish. It is usually brought in by the cook, generally while a piper plays bagpipes and leads the way to the host’s table, where the haggis is laid down.  The host, or perhaps a guest with a talent, then recites the Address to a Haggis  and the haggis is cut open. The event usually allows for people to start eating just after the haggis is presented.

After the dinner of haggis, neeps (mashed turnip)and tatties (creamed potatoes) and a variety of mutton pastries washed down with copious glasses of whiskey, there are toasts. The toasts are usually given by someone who knows something about the poet and his work. The event usually concludes with the singing of Auld Lang Syne.

Why did Burns write about the haggis?

This is an interesting question and I doubt if we will ever know exactly what inspired him to write The Address To A Haggis. What is clear however, is that Burns was presenting the Haggis as being a unique and symbolic part of Scottish identity and culture. Through the power of the spoken word and the imagery of vivid language, Rabbie successfully portrayed a picture in the mind, which has long since become the focal point of the celebration of Burns and Scotland.

When written, only a short time had passed since the Jacobite Rebellion. The French Revolution was alive, and America was in the aftermath of the War of Independence. In Britain, the political struggle between Scotland and England was very much to the fore and Burns wrote passionately on the subject.

So war, political struggle, and the Scottish identity were the catalyst for the poem. The humble Haggis was merely the vehicle used to demonstrate his proud Scottish nationalism, which he does in a light-hearted way. Burns clearly thought that Haggis was a great meal but he also recognised its nutritional value, its popularity and its unusual preparation and presentation. It was uniquely Scottish.

It is therefore easy to see why Rabbie made the link between Scotland’s Identity at that time, and the serving of Haggis to ordinary Scots, as an ordinary Scottish meal. I suppose it was a strange subject to write about but this is the mastery of Burns!

A bit of humor…

London’s Mayor Boris Johnson is being shown around a London hospital.  Towards the end of the visit, he is shown into a ward with a number of people with no obvious signs of injury or disease.

He goes to greet the first patient and the chap replies: “Fair fa’ your honest sonsie face, Great chieftain e’ the puddin’ race!  Aboon them a’ ye tak your place, Painch, tripe, or thairm; Weel are ye wordy o’ a grace as lang’s my arm.”

Boris, being somewhat confused (easily done) goes to the next patient and greets him.  The patient replies: “Some hae meat, and canna eat, and some wad eat that want it, but we hae meat and can eat, and sae the Lord be thankit.”

The third starts rattling off: “Wee sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie, O, what a panic’s in thy breastie! Thou need na start awa sae hasty, wi bickering brattle! I wad be laith to rin an chase thee, wi murdering pattle!”
Boris turns to the doctor and asks: “Is this the mental ward?”

“No” the doctor replies, “It’s the Burns unit.”

Unfortunately, we will not be partaking in a traditional Burns night feast this evening because, well, we have no haggis in the house!  I do enjoy it and if you look past the ingredients, you could too!  Now I know that some traditionalists may gasp when I say this, but we doctor it up a bit.  I usually fry up some onion and garlic and then open the haggis and break it up and put it in the pan and cook it up that way.  It gives it a little more flavor and a slight crispness.

Don’t knock it until you try it.

♥♥ Terri ♥♥

UK Food and Pickled Onions

When I first came here to the UK, I was a bit, how shall I say, disappointed in some of the foods available.  There were items I was so used to getting in the states that it would frustrate me when I couldn’t find them over here, not even a reasonable replacement.  Two items that spring to mind are chocolate chips and Cup-a-Soup.

Both of these are available here, but not in the size or selection I would like.  Chocolate chips for example are available in small packets with weights of 100g.  That’s about 3 1/2 oz.

I wanted to make a batch of chocolate chip cookies for humans, not Barbie dolls!

I had to buy four bags to even come close to the normal sized bag of chips you get in the states.  I ended up resorting to having family members send bags of chips over from across the pond.  Now, I just buy bars of plain chocolate aka semi-sweet chocolate and break them up into chip size pieces.

And the Cup-a-Soup?  I’ve yet to find any that have noodles in them.  I really don’t eat these anymore, so it’s not such a big deal.

It took a bit of getting used to, but over time I’ve learned to compensate for what I can’t find and for what I can find.

I’ve also learned to enjoy some of the English foods that I never thought I would eat.  I was never a big lamb eater until my hubby made a leg of lamb one night.  It didn’t have that horrid smell while it was cooking and it was absolutely delicious!  We enjoy it often now.  I also now eat chutney (along with making it!) and haggis; but not together!  I absolutely love oatcakes especially with Blue Stilton cheese.

There are also some things I won’t eat, although I have tried.   Offal, black pudding and kidneys are three of them.  One of the items I make to sell is pickled onions.  I love onions…as long as they’re cooked.  I will not eat these as they are basically raw.  They do sit in a brine overnight but they are still raw as far as I’m concerned.

The English love their pickled onions; in fact they enjoy lots of things pickled.  I purchased a rather large bag of pickling onions…a 5kg/11lb bag to be precise.  I’ll be making a lot of pickled onions over the coming weeks.

The preparation of the onions takes the longest and is a bit tedious as they are small and vary in size from perhaps the size of your thumb to golf ball size.

They must first be topped and tailed.  I also remove the papery outer covering if at all possible.   Pour boiling water over the onions and leave to sit for 4 minutes.  This allows for easier peeling.

After they are peeled the onions are put into a brine consisting of water and salt (1 litre water to 100g of salt) and left overnight.

The pickle is made using malt vinegar and pickling spices consisting of dried chilis, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, mace blades, allspice berries, bay leaf, peppercorns and fresh ginger.  The mixture is brought to the boil, then simmered for 5 minutes and left to infuse overnight.

The next day the onions are drained and rinsed in cold water and stuffed into hot, sterilised jars.  The vinegar mix is reheated and brought to the boil.  I then pour it over the onions and seal the jars.

Most recipes for pickled onions will say to just pour the cold vinegar over but I prefer to heat it so that the jars vacuum seal properly.  When I hear the ‘pop’ of the lid, then I know they’re sealed.  The residual heat from the vinegar may soften the onions a bit, but not so much that they lose their crunch.

Don’t quite know what I’ll be making tomorrow, but you’ll find out soon enough!