Easy Haggis Recipe
sheep stomach required!
Haggis is rarely available in English supermarkets other than around
Burns Night, finding a sheep stomach deters creating one at home and it
is considered to need hours of boiling.
Here is how to quickly & easily make haggis in a saucepan from
just commonly available UK supermarket
The are lots of tips & detail further down but you can probably
make it just from the ingredients list, the following summary &
- Boil liver, heart & onions for about 20 min until cooked.
- Add ground black pepper, ground coriander seeds & stock cubes.
- Mince in a blender.
- Add oats.
- Boil for about 10 min adding more water if desired.
- Takes approximately: 10 min work, 40min total.
For about 2 kg of loose haggis:
|Liver (lamb, beef or pork)
|Heart (lamb or beef)
||(= approx. 3 lamb hearts)
||(= approx. 3 medium white
|2 heaped tsp
||4 heaped tsp
|Porridge oats or oatmeal
Haggis was originally a cheap food made of scraps so it is very in
keeping to vary ingredients to what is available. E.g.:
- Liver: Liver is readily available in UK
supermarkets & has a strong offally taste so it is an obvious
choice for offal to include. Lamb & mutton liver is tasty and the most
traditional. Beef & pork liver is usually cheaper but pork
liver is less strongly flavoured. (Of course if your dinner guests
includes Hindus, Muslims & Jews you might want to avoid the beef
- Heart: Heart gives a rich meaty flavour but is
not always available (it is typically in big UK supermarkets & butchers but
not small supermarkets & convenience stores). The second most
commonly available offal after liver is kidneys. These would probably
work well but take more effort to prepare for cooking as they need the
tough rubbery internal tubes cut out. Maybe even just use mince if no other
offal is available. Using just liver as the meat would make the
resulting haggis taste too obviously of normal liver & onions.
- Oats: Porridge oats are very easy to find &
quicker to cook but oatmeal can give more texture.
- Coriander seed: A "magic ingredient" to give
(along with offal) the distinctive haggis taste. Although usually
associated with Indian cookery in contemporary UK, it was a commonly
available spice in the UK hundreds of years ago and cheaper than pepper
so it is not surprising it is often used in haggis.
- Other herbs & spices: Experiment. I've also
used cloves & parsley in the past. Pepper & coriander are the
main ones to give the distinctive haggis spice taste though. Originally
I used twice as much pepper as listed above because I liked it spicy
but I found that friends preferred it less spicy.
- Stock cubes:
Traditionally this would have been
salt plus stock if any were available as leftovers from previous
cooking. I just used stock cubes as they are more tasty than pure
salt, easier than making stock especially & cheaper than buying
stock (stock cubes cost next to nothing provided they are generic
brands). Probably the salt level would have been much higher than
- Water: 700 ml is the approx. amount needed
in total if cooked with a fitting (but not hermetically sealed) lid on
the pan. If the saucepan does not have a lid or a more liquid haggis is
required then use more water. If a firmer haggis is required then add
less water (or more oats). This is easy to adjust by just putting in
enough water cover the meat for the initial cooking then add more as
required during mincing & final cooking.
Stove or boiling ring. Saucepan with lid. Chopping board &
knife. Spoon, spatula, chopsticks or similar to mix
with. Electric blender or 'food
processor'. Optionally a measuring jug (or just guess).
- Optionally, to save a little time, put the water on to boil in
kettle whilst slicing the ingredients. (Otherwise just use cold water
later on and wait a few minute more for saucepan contents to come to
- Peel & slice the 0.5 kg of onions. I find the easiest way is
to first cut off & discard the top & bottom of the onion. Then
slice it in half along its vertical axis, peel off off & discard
the skin, put it large cut face down on the chopping board and slice it
by cuts perpendicular to the onion's original vertical axis.
- Put the onions in the saucepan.
- Slice the 0.5 kg of hearts into approx. 1 cm slices (to
increase cooking speed & make them easier to submerge in the
- Put the hearts in the saucepan.
- If the 0.5 kg of liver is not sliced (liver is usually
ready-sliced in the UK), slice that likewise
- Put the liver in the saucepan.
- Measure 700 ml of water & pour sufficient of it into the
saucepan to cover the contents.
- Put a lid on the saucepan.
- Bring the saucepan water to the boil then simmer it for
- Meanwhile, if the coriander &/or black pepper are not already
ground then measure out 4 heaped tsp of each into the blender. Run the
blender until the spices have been ground. Of course one could use a
separate spice grinder but using the blender, which will be used
later for the wet haggis mix anyway, will save on washing up.
- Put the 4 heaped tsp ground coriander seed & 4 heaped tsp
black pepper in the saucepan.
- Remove the wrappings from the 4 stock cubes, crush them & put
them in the saucepan. Stir until dispersed & put the lid back on.
- When the meat is cooked, pour the saucepan contents into the
blender. Take care as the lumpy stew can splop hot water out of blender
vessel. If your blender cannot take boiling water then you can cool it
down by adding some or all of the remaining water cold. If even that is
too hot for your blender then, sorry, you will need to wait for it to
cool suitably. If your blender (like mine) cannot take the whole lot in
one go then do it in batches & use a temporary container for the
processed batches until the pan is empty for reuse. If processing in
batches, try to share the liquid between the batches as a batch with too
little liquid will frustratingly gum up & form cavities at the
- Put the lid on the blender. (Otherwise it will be very messy!)
- Run the blender until the cooked mixture is reduced to mainly
2-4 mm pieces. This only takes about 5 s in my blender. Do
not blend too much (liquidise) or the result will be more like pâté
than haggis! If it is not flowing around in the blender but jamming up,
add more of the water.
- Pour the blender contents back into the saucepan.
- Pour the rest of the water into the saucepan.
- Put the 250 g of oats into the saucepan & stir them in.
- Put the lid on the saucepan. Boiling such a thickening mixture
creates big bubbles which splop the mix messily over the stove if there
is no lid on the pan.
- Bring to the boil & simmer it for about 10 min until the
oats are well cooked in. During this cooking the thickness can be
adjusted for differences in the water content of the ingredients &
your preference for the resulting haggis:
- To make it thinner, add more water.
- To make it thicker, add more oats or boil off more water. I
prefer adding oats as it is quicker, uses less fuel & is less
likely to splop haggis over the stove.
- Note that this haggis is more liquid when hot & fresh
cooked than when cold or reheated so make it a bit thinner than your
desired final state.
- When cooked it is ready to eat. It can be:
- Severed immediately for eating at boiling temperature.
- Allowed to cool a bit for eating at moderate temperature.
- Made to look roughly like a traditional haggis (e.g. for
ritual cutting open whilst reciting Burns' 'Address to a Haggis') by
wrapping it in greaseproof paper. Place an ample sheet of greaseproof
paper on a chopping board, plate or worksurface with the smoother side
down. Pour in the haggis mixture. Fold the paper in over it from all
four directions multiply rolling the seams for strength ending with the
seams in the middle. Quickly pick up the bundle an place it upside down
(so its weight holds the seams in place & its bulk hides them) on a
plate. Do not remove it from the plate before ceremonial opening (as it
will fall apart).
- Cooled further in a refrigerator for non-traditional serving
- Frozen from cold in a freezer for later use. It can be
defrosted & warmed when needed
in a microwave but might need a little extra water added (I guess the
extra thickness is from the oats having had more time to spread &
bond during the cooling).
- Technically it might not legally be a 'haggis' as it was not
cooked in a stomach or (like many mass-produced ones) a plastic bag.
Just "haggis filling". However, as the stomach or plastic bag is not
eaten or even usually served on the plate, it is effectively a haggis
as far as eating it is concerned.
- This is suitable for those in the USA as it does not include the
lung meat which, I've read, gets many Scottish haggises banned from
human consumption there. Does not make sense to me but all countries &
cultures have some arbitrary food laws.
- An alternative to rich offal like hearts, if not available, suggested by a reader
is to use a mix of minced meat and black pudding (blood sausage).
- It is not vegetarian (well, technically it is about 50% vegetarian :-) ). I
have tried making vegetarian haggis but have not found a suitable
substitute for the offal to give the vital offally note to the flavour.
From my limited experience of both mass produced & artisan
commercial vegetarian haggises, that seems to be a generally unsolved problem. However some people count that as an advantage: I've known non-vegetarians order the veggie version on Burns Night specifically to avoid the offally flavour!
Mostly it was from my experiments in March 2010. I had had a very tasty
haggis at a Burns Night
ball and had recognised the extra meaty taste as probably being heart.
I wanted more of it but locally available haggis (it was around Burns
Night, otherwise there would be very little local haggis to chose from
at all) weren't up to it. Hence I thought about making one.
Getting a sheep's stomach would be difficult and the amount of
cooking needed looked daunting but then I had the
inspiration that a haggis need not be cooked in a sheep stomach (or
plastic substitute) and if the ingredients could be simply cooked in a
saucepan it would be much easier.
First I had to deduce the ingredients. Haggis filling is
traditionally sheep offal, especially liver & lungs. I added hearts
of course. Looking at the ingredients lists on mass-produced commercial
haggises showed a variety of parts of sheep, cattle & pigs used
with each brand picking just a few from the many combinations of
organs & species possible.
Surprisingly the brand most commonly in large local supermarkets, and
claiming to be the world's most popular, turned out to be based fully
on pig not sheep at all. I considered basing it on cat or dog food
(which in the UK legally has to be fit for human consumption, which
sounds wasteful to me) which is cheap, pre-cooked and already has a
strong offally smell but canvassing friends soon revealed that most of
them thought that disgusting. Hence I based it on sheep liver &
sheep hearts sold from human-food counters.
The ingredients lists did not specify the spices in detail so I went
searching for recipes on the web. Spices varied a lot but were
typically pepper plus varied extras, the commonest of which were
coriander seed, mace, nutmeg, clove & cayenne/chilli.
Nutmeg is similar to mace, both are expensive & they cannot be used
high quantities due to unpleasant psychoactive effects. Chilli would
not taste traditional, being from the Americas & being associated
with India (conveniently ignoring that Scottish traditions like the
kilts being only a few hundred years
). Without the chilli, the amount of black pepper could be
worked out from the desired heat flavour. Hence only 2 primary spices -
coriander & clove - to experiment with & I quickly found that
it was coriander which was the key missing note in the haggis flavour
after the offal & pepper were in.
Later experiments were getting the quantities of the ingredients
(particularly to get the thickness right so I could write it up rather
than telling the reader to guess the amount of water etc. as they
thought thick) & adapting the taste based on reports from friends
tasting my haggis (in particular most preferred it less spicy than I
did so I reduced the pepper). I also found that with the saucepan
method cooking times could be quite low (I even tried using an
overnight slow cooker before realising that). I reduced the amount
of pepper as not everyone liked it as spicy as I did.