What does it taste like?
Haggis is like a crumbly sausage, with a coarse oaty texture and a warming peppery flavor. It’s most commonly served with neeps (mashed turnip) and tatties (mashed potato) and washed down with a wee dram of your favorite whisky. Haggis is a versatile ingredient – it can be used to make a stuffing for poultry and game, or fried up for breakfast like crumbled black pudding.
Is there more than one type?
Haggis is normally made with sheep offal, but originally any animal would have been used. There are many variations, which include combinations of lamb, pork, beef, venison and slightly more unusual offerings, such as rabbit and hare. Haggis has evolved over the years to suit all tastes and lifestyles, so you can now find organic, gluten-free and even vegan haggis.
How's it cooked?
The traditional method is to simmer the haggis in a pot for hours, but there's a risk that it will burst. You can also bake it in a casserole dish with some water. Although potentially cheating, the easiest and quickest way to cook haggis is in the microwave (but Robbie Burns might turn in his grave). Haggis is usually sold pre-cooked, so the most important thing is to get it piping hot.
How to cook and serve haggis:
1. Gently simmer in water for 50 mins per 500g.
2. Bake in a lidded casserole dish with a splash of water at 190C/170C fan/gas 5 for 1 hr.
Or, to microwave, cook on medium for 9 mins, turning once.
3. Once the haggis is very hot, cut a cross in the middle and spoon out the filling.
Why on Burns Night?
In 1801, on the fifth anniversary of the death of Robert Burns, his friends got together to celebrate his life. Burns immortalized haggis in his poem Address to a Haggis, so it was the obvious food to serve. This celebration has continued every year on Burns’ birthday, 25 January, ever since. Events are held across the world, where people recite his poetry, sing, drink whisky and – of course – eat haggis.
Address to Haggis by Robert Burn:
Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the pudding-race!
Aboon them a' yet tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o'a grace
As lang's me arm.
The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o'need,
While thro' your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.
His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An' cut you up wi' ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Then, horn for horn, they stretch an' strive:
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad make her spew
Wi' perfect sconner,
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view
On sic a dinner?
Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckles as wither'd rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash;
His nieve a nit;
Thro' blody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll mak it whissle;
An' legs an' arms, an' heads will sned,
Like taps o' trissle.
Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind yer care,
And dish them out their bill o' fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer
Gie her a haggis!