|a stabbed haggis; photo:londoncityairport.wordpress.com|
Yesterday, 25 January was Robert Burns' birthday-- hence Burn's Night when Scots traditionally eat a haggis supper; haggis, tatties and neeps washed down with good quantities of malt whisky.
The haggis is brought to the table with great ceremony to the tune of bagpipes; and is then 'addressed' by a gentleman who reads Robbie Burns' poem 'To a Haggis' and finishes by stabbing it with a Skean Dhu (ceremonial dagger). If you want to find out more about the poems of Robbie Burns, or hear them read visit the BBC's website
At a later point during the dinner it is traditional for a different gentleman to give an address 'to the lassies' (a speech to the ladies). There is no corresponding 'address to the laddies'.
For those of you who have no idea what haggis is; well it won't win any awards for the best looking dish but when done right it is a very tasty dish indeed. Traditionally, if you live in Edinburgh one of 'the' places to buy your haggis is from MacSween's butchers.
|Haggis; photo from www.epicerie-ecossaise.com|
What's in it? Scare stories abound of haggis and, yes originally it was a recipe which used up bits of the animal which would otherwise go to waste and so contained "pluck": lungs, liver and heart. However, today a haggis is much more likely to contain lamb shoulder and kidneys and beef liver as well as the traditional oatmeal, herbs and spices. In the UK haggis is made with suet (hard beef fat) but due to BSE this is no longer allowed for export, so for the EU lamb fat is used instead. The bit that continues to make many people go "eeeeuuuuw" is that the whole is cooked in a sheep's stomach. A well cleaned out stomach I hasten to add. Premium sausages are cased in intestines and nobody goes "eeuuw" --well not too often-- about that. In the land of andouillettes (tripe sausage) and boudin noir et blanc I doubt haggis ingredients will raise much of an eyebrow.
When we first lived in the Netherlands internet shopping was still in it's infancy and getting hold of haggis for a Burns Night Supper was a challenge--we found one Scottish restaurant which made its own and sold to order. Now such things have become so easy. A quick internet search revealed serval options for getting haggis delivered. We are still finding our feet; but we'll see for next year....