Two days ago, January 25, 2014, I and my friends celebrated Robert Burns' birthday. He was a Scottish bard who lived in the late 1700s, known for composing verses on the fly and for fathering a great many children (read his poem, The Fornicator, or She Rose and Loot Me In).
It's a grand excuse for a party, and party we did.
Since sheep offal is not to everyone's taste, I also made roast beef, horseradish sauce, poached turnips, mac n cheese, and a roasted red beet and arugula salad (with a blood orange vinaigrette). I had a lot of help...Thanks Maxene!
But this haggis, This Haggis, was the best I've ever tasted. It had spice, complexity, moisture, and a ton of offal-y flavor.
Here's my recipe, adapted from Fergus Henderson's recipe in "The Whole Beast, nose to tail eating."
Note: You will need a meat grinder.
1 ea sheep stomach (1 lb, 12 oz)**
2 ea kidney (6 oz)**
1 ea liver (1 lb, 8 oz)**
2 # ground lamb
1-1/2 # pork belly***
2-1/2 cups pinhead oatmeal
(also called steel cut oats)
2 cups chicken stock
1 tspn whole allspice berries
4 ea large onions -- divided use. One onion roughly chopped (for stock) three onions medium dice (for the haggis)
1 ea carrot, roughly chopped (for stock)
1 ea celery stick, roughly chopped (for stock)
4 Tbsp butter, divided use
1 Tbs olive oil
1 tspn ground allspice
2 tspns red pepper flakes
salt to taste
In a medium saucepan, bring heart (cut into quarters), kidneys, mirepoix (onion, carrot and celery) and whole allspice berries to a boil in five cups of salted water. Simmer for 1.5 hours, skimming and discarding the foam that forms on the top of the stock. When finished, cool the offal in the cooking liquid (liquor).
While the pluck (offal) cooks, rinse and soak the stomach in cold tap water -- changing the water frequently -- until the water runs clear and the stomach is free of all residue. The stomach I used had tobacco-like bits and absolutely no scent. It was actually pretty.
Saute the liver in two tablespoons butter and a bit of olive oil, until seared but still undercooked in the center.
Saute the remaining three onions (medium dice) in the remaining butter.
Toast the oats in a hot (450-500 degree) oven for 5 - 10 minutes or until you begin to smell cooking oats. Since the goal is to toast rather than brown the oats, I pulled them when the edges began to brown slightly.
When cool, strain and reserve the offal broth, chop the heart and kidneys into cubes appropriate for your meat grinder. Chop the pork belly into 1/2 to 1 inch chunks -- again cut to fit your meat grinder.
Assemble the meat grinder. Grind the pork belly, heart, kidneys, and HALF the liver. Add the ground lamb, oats, sauteed onions, ground allspice, red pepper flakes and 1 Tbsp salt. Mix well.
Moisten with the strained heart-and-kidney liquor. If it seems dry, add chicken stock until very moist and juicy, but not sloppy wet.
Check the flavor by making a small patty of the mix and quickly sauteing it in a small pan. Taste it and season accordingly. If you prefer a gamier flavor, add the remaining liver.
Stuff the mix into the stomach, and tie securely with kitchen twine. Leave a good amount of room on the outside of the knot so the insides can expand. The stomach I used had only one large entrance/exit. If yours has two, tie both ends, again leaving room for expansion.
Not to brag but my haggis weighed nine pounds.
Don't worry...the stuffed haggis is going to look kinda crazy. Floppy, sloppy and weird.Wrap the raw haggis in foil -- again leaving a twist of foil at either end to allow for expansion -- and gently simmer for three hours.
When done, carefully pour out the liquid, and lift the foil-sheathed haggis from the pot. My greatest fear was that the stomach would split open. It won't.
Arrange the haggis on a platter, with the most *ahem* attractive part facing outward (and trim the excess stomach if so desired) and present to the waiting guests.
Hopefully, your S.O. or one of your guests will be reading Address to a Haggis, while the rest of your guests toast the magnificent 'pudding' with Scotch. It's traditional for people to flick Scotch on the haggis as well.
Wielding a bad-ass knife, slice into the beastie and serve, discarding the stomach.
If you're really lucky, you'll have wonderful friends like Kim and Adrienne to help with desserts. Kim made cobbler and shortbread cookies and Adrienne also made shortbread.
Live big, eat well, and make your man
(or men) wear kilts...
* Haggis is a 'savory pudding,' a kind of sausage or paté made with sheep offal and oats.
** Just FYI, I added the weights of each specialty ingredients that went into the haggis.
*** The pork belly was the the key to the success of this haggis. I wonder if Fergus Henderson or any self-respectin' Scot who cooks would slap me silly for using pork belly but... it was delicious and added a huge amount of flavor.