Monday, January 31, 2011

A Plea for Better Haggis

During the last few weeks of January it seems every group that has a remote link with Scotland has some sort of salute to Robert Burns. This means that everywhere you turn someone is serving up haggis. More often that not the haggis is moderately awful at best. In an effort to combat the low quality of haggis on offer I am posting my version of the family recipe for haggis.

Some might say that there is no such thing as good haggis. That is like saying that after eating a hamburger from the local fast-food joint, there is no such thing as a good hamburger. There is a vast difference between the hamburger you fashion yourself from ground beef, well seasoned, fried and topped with some double smoked bacon and old cheddar`and the hamburger made from a frozen puck

The flavor of haggis is dominated by liver. If you don't like the flavour of liver, haggis may not appeal to you. However, the texture of liver has been eliminated by grinding it. So if the texture of liver turns you off, that is eliminated here.

The haggis should be peppery but not overly spicy. You are not trying to appeal to the palate of your Mexican  friends. You have to taste it as you add the seasoning. Keep in mind that the pepper will increase in intensity as the haggis is steamed. Also, you  are not trying to mask the liver, rather you are trying to complement the flavour.

The final texture will be determined by the type of oats used. In this version, I used a very coarse steel cut oats. The result will be a course texture. In the past I have used a finer Scotch Oatmeal which yields a finer texture haggis. Do not use rolled oats. Rolled oats have the wrong shape and would likely cook too fast. I have no idea how the end result would be. Experiment at your own risk.

Given the difficulty of obtaining a sheep stomach to act as the casing, I use cheese cloth to hold the haggis. It looks rustic and is still permeable to water. The haggis will need to be steamed where it will absorb some of the water.

The recipe is scaled by the size of the heart. The original recipe called for a sheep's heart. I have never seen a sheep's heart available an any of the local meat shops. A sheep's heart is about 1/4 the size of a calves heart. So, you could reduce the recipe if you can find a sheep's heart. The other option would be to only use a portion of the heart. The other option would be to use just beef, bu that goes against using the offal cuts of the animal that inspired the recipe.

For Haggis:
IngredientCaloriesProtein (g)
1kg calves heart1670288.2
856g beef liver1635248.9
747g beef suet637911.2
695g Steel Cut Oats (4 cups)2685110.6
4c beef stock12518.9
915g onion (5 med.)3848.4
1/2 cup whisky3070
2 tbsp peppercorns331.4
2 tsp cayenne110.4
1 1/2 tbsp salt
For Poaching:
2 litres water
2 onions
6 bay leaves

Raw Haggis ingredients, or deconstructed Haggis! For less than $20 you can make enough haggis to feed a small army.

Quarter the onions for the poaching liquid and add to the water with the bay leaves. Bring to a boil and add heart and liver. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until the liver and heart are cooked. Remove liver and heard and let cool. Discard the poaching liquid.

Meanwhile toast the oats in a 375F oven until well toasted ~20 minutes. The outer edges will brown faster so you will need to stir the oats part way through the toasting. Let cool.

Meanwhile, cut the onions down to a size that will fit in the feed tube of your food grinder. When the liver and heard is cool cut into pieces that will also fit into the feed tube of your food grinder.

Fit you r food grinder with the coarse die. Alternating onion, liver, heart and suet feed everything into the food grinder. Combine the ground mixture with the oats. Add the cayenne, pepper, salt, whisky and stock. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning if necessary. The mixture will be quite loose. The oats will eventually absorb much of the liquid. At this point refrigerate the mixture to allow it to firm up.

Lay a double layer of cheese cloth over a small bowl and portion the haggis into the bowl.

Tie up the corners of the cheese cloth.

 Here are for 500g balls of haggis
Now to cook the haggis! Place a ball in a steamer and allow to cook in the steam for 60-90 minutes. After it is cooked cut the cheese cloth and empty into a serving bowl.

The haggis can also be frozen. Just wrap the balls with plastic. It will keep for some time in the freezer. You will just have to add some time to the steaming process for it to thaw.


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