I have had Haggis about a half-dozen times in my life (almost exclusively in restaurants) but I have never tried making one from scratch and have never had one of any sort inside my home. I was quite excited, therefore, to find a prepared commercial variety in one of our local stores. Curiously, it was the only one there and there had been none there the day before. Why ever that might be I don’t know (did the store only order one, I wonder?), but I wasn’t going to lose the opportunity to sample it so I snapped it up.
Anyway, the label contains the promotional tag ‘The Good Taste of the West’, which struck me as a little unusual, but then I saw the product is made in Saskatchewan. This is, among all the provinces and territories, the only one I have yet to visit, so I can only assume that they have permitted at least one Scottish person across their borders (possibly with a view to cornering the international haggis trade, perhaps?)…
Here is the Haggis released from its wrapper. Now traditionally, a Scottish Haggis is supposed to be made with the ‘pluck’ of a sheep (heart liver and lungs) chopped with oatmeal and cooked, like a pudding, inside the sheep’s stomach. Now, a glance at the ingredients shows a major departure in that it lists, as ingredients, the following: “Pork, Pork Liver, Onions, Oats, Water, Beef Suet, Salt and Spice”.
Beyond that departure, I was also pretty sure, even from the outward appearance, that the casing, that, though obviously an animal part, it was probably not a stomach, especially since the two tied openings are a bit too symmetrical in size and placement. I rather suspect that the part in question is actually a section of intestine. Some very large sausages use an intestinal segment known, in the trade, as the ‘bung’, which could, quite possibly, be the case here. Now, those familiar with the term ‘bunghole’ can probably take a fair stab at guessing just what that segment is and, while I don’t know if this is actually represented here, I suppose that, when it comes to intestines, one segment is probably no better, nor worse, than another.
This particular product is already cooked and the instructions for re-heating for service provide for one to wrap the haggis in foil, place it in a bath of water and then pop it all in a 350 degree oven for about one to one and a half hours. This I duly did.
Here is the haggis after cooking. It has browned somewhat and the casing has lost its ‘fleshy’ feel and is rather papery, somewhat like the ‘fell’ on a roasted leg of lamb (for those who, like me, don’t remove the same).
On cutting the haggis, the first thing I noted was that the casing is much thinner than I first thought and this merely serves to buttress my suspicion that a segment of intestine is used rather than the stomach. The other thing that rather surprised me was the consistency of the filling. In every other haggis I recall, the oatmeal was clearly visible as being the grainy, steel-cut variety, all interspersed with dark ‘bits’ giving it the appearance of a Scottish version of Cajun ‘Dirty Rice’.
Well, good old Scottish ‘Neeps and Tatties’ would be the traditional side here but I am off spuds mostly, these days (and the oatmeal is quite enough of a carb load for me anyway). Still, I did get the ‘Neeps’ part right (yes, the white stuff is mashed turnip, not potato), and alongside is broccoli sautéed with garlic in olive oil.
As to my verdict, I am afraid that the veggies were probably the best part of my meal. The consistency of the haggis was pretty much like it looks and just wasn’t right. There was a faint liver taste, but the texture (did they use flaked oats, maybe?) made the effect curiously like a hot, rather sticky pate. It was a bit bland and, on my second piece I ‘set the seal on the meal’ with a little HP Sauce. Too bad, really…