Easy Haggis Recipe

No sheep stomach required!

Description

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 ingredients.

Summary

The are lots of tips & detail further down but you can probably make it just from the ingredients list, the following summary & common sense:

Ingredients

For about 2 kg of loose haggis:

Liver (lamb, beef or pork)
0.5 kg
Heart (lamb or beef)
0.5 kg (= approx. 3 lamb hearts)
Onions 0.5 kg (= approx. 3 medium white onions)
Black pepper
4 heaped tsp
Coriander seeds 4 heaped tsp
Stock cubes 4
Porridge oats or oatmeal
250 g
Water 700 ml

Ingredient alternatives

Haggis was originally a cheap food made of scraps so it is very in keeping to vary ingredients to what is available. E.g.:

Equipment

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).

Detailed Instructions

  1. 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 the boil.)
  2. 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.
  3. Put the onions in the saucepan.
  4. Slice the 0.5 kg of hearts into approx. 1 cm slices (to increase cooking speed & make them easier to submerge in the saucepan).
  5. Put the hearts in the saucepan.
  6. If the 0.5 kg of liver is not sliced (liver is usually ready-sliced in the UK), slice that likewise
  7. Put the liver in the saucepan.
  8. Measure 700 ml of water & pour sufficient of it into the saucepan to cover the contents.
  9. Put a lid on the saucepan.
  10. Bring the saucepan water to the boil then simmer it for 20 min.
  11. 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.
  12. Put the 4 heaped tsp ground coriander seed & 4 heaped tsp black pepper in the saucepan.
  13. Remove the wrappings from the 4 stock cubes, crush them & put them in the saucepan. Stir until dispersed & put the lid back on.
  14. 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 blades.
  15. Put the lid on the blender. (Otherwise it will be very messy!)
  16. 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.
  17. Pour the blender contents back into the saucepan.
  18. Pour the rest of the water into the saucepan.
  19. Put the 250 g of oats into the saucepan & stir them in.
  20. 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.
  21. 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:
    1. To make it thinner, add more water.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
  22. When cooked it is ready to eat. It can be:
    1. Severed immediately for eating at boiling temperature.
    2. Allowed to cool a bit for eating at moderate temperature.
    3. 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).
    4. Cooled further in a refrigerator for non-traditional serving cold.
    5. 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).

Notes

Origin

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 in 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 old:-) ). 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).