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In 1801, 5 years to the day since the death of Robert Burns, a group of nine men who knew him gathered together in Burns Cottage in Alloway to celebrate his life and works over dinner. The evening was enjoyed by them all as they recited his poetry over a fat Haggis. That is how Burn’s night was born in two sentences and it’s essentially how it’s still celebrated to this day!
With Burn’s night on Saturday we think it’s time to talk about the famous Scottish meal of Haggis and some similar dishes from the Offal family.
If you mention offal you’ll probably see some people turn their noses up as it’s not one of the most commonly enjoyed foods in western culture, but you might be surprised to learn that it is possibly some of the best food for you. Liver and kidneys are a remarkably high in iron and vitamins C and A! For those of you not familiar, the offal family consists of kidneys, liver, tongue, brains, blood, skin – your delicious pork scratchings fit right into this food family, along with sweetbreads, ox and pig tails, pork trotter, heart, eyeballs, lungs, tripe, snout, penis, testicles, udder, head and finally beef cheek. We know these foods are like the marmite of the meat world, but often these cuts of meat are delicacies, such as the Bulls penis in China – personally we might pass and leave that one for the time being.
Interestingly, assuming you eat meat, you’re probably eating more offal than you’re aware of. Liver pate, for example, is served at many dinner parties, picnics and around Christmas (if you can afford it) Foie Gras is simply goose liver. The classic 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 and while they might sound disgusting, they can taste amazing. If you would fancy trying some we recommend starting with 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. We’ve got an awesome recipe for this 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 in alternative leg attire, 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!