Just what is the deal with haggis?

23 April, 2021

Everything you wanted to know about this Scottish favourite

Haggis pulls at the heartstrings of anyone who hails from Scotland. It was so beloved by the Scottish poet, Robert Burns, that he even wrote a poem about it (Address to a haggis). Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay aches for home when he eats a good version of the Scot’s national dish, even if it is made from the minced heart, lungs and liver of a sheep and boiled in the lining of a sheep’s stomach.

Sorry, you said it’s made of what?

Yes, it’s true. Haggis is a savoury pudding containing the innards of a sheep, minced up and combined with onion, oatmeal, salt and spices. The meat mixture is encased and cooked in the lining of the sheep’s stomach.

In years gone by, hunters would use the offal of their prey to create a meal. It was the original nose-to-tail style of cooking when every part of the animal was used to provide nourishment. Because the hearts, lungs and liver of an animal were the first parts of it to go off after it had been slaughtered, they needed to be eaten first.

What is the best haggis recipe?

Like all traditional recipes, the best one is your own family recipe but if you’re not Scottish and don’t have your own private cook on speed dial, have a look at this one from the Food Network or this one from SBS Food. 

It’s not easy to find haggis on supermarket shelves in Australia but it is possible to buy the ingredients and create your own version of the dish. Speak to the butchers at Woolworths about sourcing offal for your haggis experimenting. Or to buy it ready-made, David’s Larder in St Mary’s is an award-winning specialty Scottish butcher in Sydney who sells pre-made haggis online and at markets around town.

Tip for cooks: Although the haggis is boiled in the lining, this part of the animal is not eaten. Cut through and enjoy the haggis inside.

 Is haggis good for you?

A minced meat dish like haggis is high in saturated fats and high in calories. It’s rich and flavourful and should only be eaten in moderation. 

 Is there a vegetarian version of haggis?

With vegetarianism on the rise in Scotland, vegetarian and vegan haggis recipes are emerging and being constantly refined. Pulses, seeds, mushrooms and veggies replace the meats and cabbage leaves are used to wrap the haggis as a substitute for the animal matter that a haggis usually cooked in. Visit Woolworths to pick up the fresh ingredients for this delicious dish.

Is haggis really banned in the USA?

Yes. In the USA it is illegal to import the lung matter of animals from the UK. Because 10-15% of the traditional and usual recipe for haggis includes sheep lung, it contravenes these rules. If you want to eat haggis in the USA you have to be prepared to cook it yourself. Luckily, in Australia, we can import this specialist product but if we really want to eat this traditional Scottish dish the way Mammie used to make, you’ll have to roll up your sleeves,  bust out the bagpipe music and cook your own.