Monday, 5 December 2011

One haggis, two suppers

Somehow, a whole month has passed - a month filled with settling into a new home and extreme busyness with work. Naturally, I've been cooking and eating but I've been pretty short of time to blog. So, without further ado, here's the first in a backlog of dinners!

Haggis is rather like Marmite - it's one of those things you tend to either love or hate, with no middle ground. The squeamish are put off by the ingredients, but much as I love haggis, I wouldn't want to eat a sheep's pluck* on its own. Yet when minced with oatmeal, suet and spices it's nothing short of delicious. And if no one told you what the meaty bits were you'd not be able to tell.

A haggis is not just for Burns Night (25 January, if you're wondering). One haggis will feed two people very well indeed, but as I live alone I don't see why I should deprive myself - I just turn it into two dinners instead.

A traditional haggis dinner sees the meaty mix accompanied by "bashed neeps and tatties". Neeps are not actually turnips, but swedes and both these and the spuds are cooked and mashed separately and served alongside the haggis, with a tot of whisky. It can sit very heavy in the stomach after - my take on the mash is both sweeter and lighter, to cut through the dense spiciness of the haggis. The leftovers I turn into a shepherd's pie.

*That's the heart, lungs and liver.

Haggis with three-root mash

What you need: 
1 haggis
1-2 parsnips
2 sweet potatoes
2-3 carrots
black pepper

What to do:
First, catch your haggis. Just joking... Cook the haggis according to the instructions - most come in a plastic casing rather than a sheep stomach these days. Boiling, steaming or baking are the usual methods - each takes around 60-90 minutes. Follow the instructions on the packaging or, if you bought it loose from a butcher, ask their advice on cooking times.

Half an hour before you want to eat, peel the roots, chop them into evenly sized chunks and put on the boil with just the tiniest pinch of salt in the cooking water. Simmer until they are so tender they start to break up when you test them with a fork. Drain well, add a knob of butter and mash. Beat in a spoonful of crème fraiche and season with black pepper.

Serve half the mash with half the haggis and set the rest aside. 

Now for the leftovers...

Shepherd's haggis pie

What you need:
Half a cooked haggis
1 onion, finely chopped
I small carrot, finely diced
Gravy granules
Leftover mash

What to do:
Gently fry the onion in a little onion until it's very soft and translucent, then stir through the carrot, fry for a few minutes more then take it off the heat. While that's cooking make up 200mls (1/4 pint) of gravy granules. Put the leftover haggis in the bottom of a small pie dish and break it up gently with a fork. Add the onions and carrots, mix well then stir in enough gravy to keep it moist but not sloppy. Top with the leftover mash, dot with butter and pop into a hot oven (180-190C) for 30 minutes.

Cook's tips:
If you don't eat meat, haggis comes in vegetarian versions these days and they are so tasty they are hard to tell apart from traditional sort.

You can use any sort of root vegetable for the mash - celeriac works well with haggis, but if you only have potatoes and swedes to hand use them and add a third root to lift the flavour.

The shepherd's pie will keep in the fridge for a couple of days if you don't fancy haggis two days in a row. It also freezes well - assemble the pie in a foil container and reheat in a hot oven (200c) - 30 minutes from chilled, an hour if from frozen.