I’ve always loved haggis but have known better than to read the list of ingredients too carefully. So how better to test out my love for it than to make it from scratch?!
Making a haggis requires a little bit more effort than going to Tesco and buying some lamb, oats and a sort of bag thing to put it all in. We’re definitely in the realm of specialist suppliers and friendly chats with your local butcher. It also requires a strong nose and a cool head with handling some of the more wobbly bits from inside a lamb. The first ingredient I tracked down was something called an ox bung from a company called smokedust.co.uk. As my kids would say it was a bad case of ‘first the worst’. Despite being in a sealed plastic bag it absolutely honked! It genuinely smelt exactly the same as the cat litter tray. It comes cured and salted but when it came to use it no amount of washing seemed to shift the bad smell – all in all not a very encouraging start.
The next ingredient was the lamb pluck. Basically this is the heart, lungs and liver of the lamb. After a chat and a phone call to their supplier my local butcher managed to get one. A few days later it duly arrived – if ever there was a tipping point to nudge me into Veganuary this was it. The only time I had had to deal with the reality of eating such delights was on a trip to Xinjiang in Western China when I spent a fascinating couple of hours watching a man filling sheep’s lungs with a floury batter before boiling them and then selling them that evening on streets of Kashgar. Never did I imagine that one day I would cooking sheep lungs in my own kitchen!
The final tricky ingredient was coarse pinhead oats. Regular supermarkets don’t seem to stock them but I think you can probably find them in health food shops. I bought mine in the wonderful Daily Bread co-operative shop here in Cambridge.
- Ox bung
- Lamb pluck – mine weighed 1.4kg
- 500g toasted coarse pinhead oats
- 350g Atora packet beef suet
- 4tsp freshly ground white pepper
- 2tsp freshly ground coriander
- 4tsp salt
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 2tsp fresh thyme
- 2tsp finely chopped fresh sage
- 2 onions
- approx 500ml beef stock
- Put the lamb pluck into a large pan of water and bring to the boil and simmer for about an hour and a half. A rather grim scum might float to the surface so skim this off. Allow to cool in the pan.
- Meanwhile spread the oats out on 1 or 2 large baking trays and toast in 180C oven for about 10 minutes. Allow to cool.
- Start by thoroughly washing out the ox bung in lots of cold water. It will still stink but just roll with it. (Still sure you want to go ahead with this?!)
- Once the pluck has cooled remove it from the pan and rinse off any scum etc. Coarsely grate the liver (never thought I would write that…) and finely chop the heart and lungs.
- Grind the white pepper and coriander in a pestle and mortar.
- Finely chop the rosemary, thyme and sage.
- Blitz the onions in a food processor or cut them very finely.
- Put all the above along with the salt in a large mixing bowl and mix together. Add the beef stock so you have a fairly firm paste.
- Spoon it all into the ox bung. Try and squeeze out as much air as possible but leave enough space for it to swell. (You may or may not like haggis after all this but you definitely won’t like it if it explodes and splatters your kitchen in offal!)
- Tie the end up firmly with butchers string.
- Bring a large pan of water to the boil and carefully lower the haggis in. The bung will immediately tighten. Pierce the top of it so all the trapped air can escape and then leave to simmer for about an hour and a half.
- At this point the haggis is ready to serve. Pipe it in, recount some Gaelic or just stick a knife in it but a final word of caution. Apocryphal or not there are stories of people being showered in hot haggis when it is first stabbed so maybe try and draw out that ‘Ode to the Haggis’ for a couple of minutes to allow it to cool a little!