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In 1801, on the fifth anniversary of the death of Robert Burns, nine men who knew him met for dinner in Burns Cottage in Alloway to celebrate his life and works reciting his poetry over a fat Haggis. And so Burn’s night was born and celebrated ever since.
With Burn’s night coming up next week we think it’s time to talk about the famous Scottish meal of Haggis and some of it’s other friends from the Offal family.
Offal is not one of the most commonly enjoyed food in western cultures and it is probably some of the best food for you. Liver and kidneys are a great source of iron and high in vitamin C and A. The offal family consists of kidneys, liver, tongue, brains, blood, skin – your delicious pork scratchings fit right into this food family, sweetbreads, ox and pig tails, pork trotter, heart, eyeballs, lungs, tripe, snout, penis, testicles, udder, head and finally beef cheek. These foods are loved in some cultures and completely taboo in others. Bulls penis is a delicacy in China but personally I will leave that for the Chinese.
To be fair you probably eat more offal than you think. Liver pate is served at many dinner parties, picnics and around Christmas ( if you can afford it) Foie Gras which is simply goose liver. The classic British meal of bacon and liver is strong in flavour and not to be passed over if you’re up for something to fill you up this winter. They might sound disgusting but actually they can taste amazing. If you would fancy trying some I would start with a beef cheek. This little beauty is the baby of the offal family and tastes amazing slow cooked and served on a bed of mashed potatoes. Get the recipe here
Of course the most famous of offal treats is most definitely, Haggis. Whether you have Scottish blood, love Haggis, need a tiny excuse for a party, or like wearing a man skirt, Burns Week is here.
Scottish ancestry or not haggis is a delicious food and nutritious. It is best carefully steamed and accompanied with some turnips, swede and carrots boiled together and roughly mashed, (to leave lumps) then mixed with some butter and black pepper. Potatoes should get the same treatment with butter, black pepper, milk and a pinch of mace, but be mashed finer and then whisked with a fork until your arm hurts.
For those that don’t want to struggle through the traditional Burn’s grace, for the cutting of the haggis, or have a scottish friend who can stay sober enough to read it, here is a recording by John Gordon Sinclair. You can put your laptop near the table, click the link and have the big knife poised over the beastie, ready for the word ‘cut’ in the 3rd verse!