Haggis is one of those foods that provoke a near physical response with just a whisper of its name. If you suggest that haggis grace a dinner plate… your nervous guests may scamper for the door. It’s no secret that some Americans are pretty squeamish when it comes to new foods and even the adventurous eaters may wrinkle their noses at the sight of innards.
Of course, one man’s treasure is another man’s rubbish and that is certainly true with food. Some may bristle at the mention of haggis – this is a reaction that I reserve for the thought of ordering my meal by shouting from a car window into a clown face.
In truth, most people outside of Scotland and the UK have never seen Haggis. In the UK, there are several brands of Haggis available in the fresh and frozen butcher sections of major supermarkets. There is even a canned version of haggis, sans the sheep stomach, which is the only way to get haggis legally in the USA. Getting the real McCoy in the US can be tricky as several key components of traditional haggis have been deemed “unfit for human consumption” by the clever folks in the US government.
Despite the lack of officially sanctioned haggis, you can still enjoy a tasty and “American friendly” version at home. The recipe that I offer here is my best adaptation of a haggis I enjoyed at a great inn in the Scottish Highlands. I was blown away by this “modern” version as it captured the rich and rustic flavors of traditional haggis with a bit of airiness and a depth created by browning the smaller haggis sausages.
What we offer here is NOT a traditional haggis recipe. Most accomplished home cooks can make this version and the ingredients can be found in most US groceries. This recipe takes a bit of time to accomplish but it is easy to make. Most importantly, it is a recipe that will be eagerly consumed by your guests. I know; I proved it in my own home. Serve alongside neeps and tatties (mashed turnips and potatoes), as well as the haggis gravy.
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Haggis (A modern recipe)
- Lamb – 1 1/2 lbs ground
- Veal (or beef) – 1 lbs ground
- Chicken liver – 1/2 lbs
- Beef liver – 1/4 lbs
- Onions – 2, diced
- Carrots – 3, small dice
- Garlic – 4 cloves diced fine
- Oatmeal (the real stuff – steel cut oats) – 1.5 cups
- Brown stock (beef, lamb, veal) – 1 1/2 to 2 cups
- Cayenne pepper – 1/2 tsp
- Salt – 1.5 tsp
- Brown Spices, ground – 2 tsp (the pumpkin pie spice in your pantry work s just fine)
- Nutmeg – 1/2 tsp
- Sage – 2 tbls finely chopped
Slowly sauté the onions and carrots until very soft and lightly colored. Be sure to add salt and pepper to taste. When soft, add the garlic and cook until it softens and becomes fragrant. Turn off the heat and stir in the chopped sage. Allow this mixture to cool.
In a low to medium heat pan slowly toast the oatmeal turning frequently and assuring that it does not burn. You want to achieve a light, nut-brown color and it will smell a bit nutty as well. When this oatmeal toasting is complete set it aside and allow it to cool.
Separately, cook the chicken and beef livers in boiling, salted water for three minutes. Drain well and then sauté both liver varieties until lightly browned. Be careful as the livers will blacken quickly if not carefully watched. When fully cooked, set aside, and allow the livers to cool. When cool, place the liver into the large bowl of a food processor along with 1/4 cup of the stock, and the ground brown spices and blitz until it is just finely chopped – no more.
At this point you can combine all of the ingredients, including the raw ground lamb and veal, in a large bowl stirring to combine well. Slowly add the brown stock stirring until it absorbed. You want to add enough moisture for the oatmeal to absorb. Refrigerate the mixture for at least four hours or preferably overnight to allow the flavors to combine.
Two Methods for Prepping and Cooking Your Homemade Haggis
Loaf pan method: (Our preferred method) Lightly oil a loaf pan and fill with the haggis mixture. You want to first steam the haggis so you have to find a roasting pan or pot that can hold the loaf pan and a cover. Heat about a half-inch of stock in the pot. Cover tightly and allow the haggis to steam for an hour. Remove from the heat and leave the haggis covered for at least an hour. In a 400 degree oven, roast the loaf pan uncovered for 15 minutes or until the top has browned and formed a light crust. Serve with the haggis sauce, recipe below.
Sausage method: Stuff the haggis in pork casings. (Tricky to do for many home cooks but it is attractive.) Put the haggis links on a rack in a roasting pan with about a half-inch of stock beneath. Cover with foil. Bring the stock to a low simmer for one hour. Remove from the heat and leave the haggis covered for at least an hour. Drain the stock and use the roasting pan to brown the haggis on both sides. Serve immediately or return the rack and stock to the pan and keep the haggis warm. Serve with the haggis sauce, recipe below.
- Onion – 1 halved and sliced
- Carrot – 1 cut in 1-inch pieces
- Garlic – 3 whole cloves
- Butter – 4 tbls
- Dried chili – 1
- Cloves whole – 4
- Sage – 4 whole leaves
- Juniper berries
- Allspice, whole, 1/2 teaspoon
- Black Peppercorns, whole, 1/2 teaspoon
- Lavender 1/2 teaspoon
- Flour – 2 tbls
- Scotch Whisky – 3 oz.
- Beef Stock – 4 cups
- Black Currant Jam – 1 tbls
Sweat the onions and carrot with the olive oil over medium heat. When soft and lightly colored add the garlic and stir until fragrant. Add the chili and all of the herbs and spices. Cook for two minutes until it is quite fragrant. Stir in flour and combine well. Cook for a couple of minutes until the flour has lost its raw scent. Add the Whisky and stir in quickly. A consistent paste should form. Add the stock and combine well. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower to simmer and allow to cook for 20 minutes. Strain the sauce, removing all spices and herbs. Keep the sauce warm until needed.