Addressing the haggis

Categories: Expert guidance

Luke Mackay on swallowing his pseudo-Scottish guilt and making haggis from scratch—in the most fussy child-friendly way possible

Sometimes the planets align, and you end up tricking your four-year-old son into eating boiled lungs for his Sunday lunch.

Lest you report me immediately to the relevant authorities, I should give you some background. A couple of years ago, my son began to receive ‘homework’. One week, his teacher asked them all to “try a new food and write a sentence about it. Ask mummy or daddy to take a photograph of you eating it”.

Separately, I realised that Burns Night was fast approaching and as I prepared to write my annual ode to the haggis and all things Rabbie, I was overcome with an uncharacteristic pseudo-Scottish guilt—for although I enjoy and wax lyrical about haggis once a year, it is always an ‘easy’, almost antiseptic experience. I buy a haggis and I sling it in the oven and scoff it. For someone who constantly extols the virtues of slow cooking, nose-to-tail eating and offal, there seemed an egregious gap in my repertoire.

So, then, a new food for Murdo’s homework and a new culinary experience for daddy. Perfect.

Murdo eating Scottish sausage

Carnivorous sister
But. Murdo has decided he’s a vegetarian: “I hate meat daddy,” he says and slips it to his carnivorous sister when I’m not looking. “But what about sausages?” I say. “Oh, I LOVE sausages,” he says. “And BACON.” There’s still hope I guess. So, haggis was off the menu to be replaced with “Scottish sausages—grandpa Peter’s favourite!”

You need to set aside a bit of time to make Scottish sausages™. You need to pre-order a sheep’s pluck (lungs/heart/liver) from a butcher—very few, if any, will just have them lying around. Northfield Farm will happily deliver one to their stall at Borough Market in exchange for a few quid. You need pinhead oats—rolled porridge oats will not suffice here—and if you are going down the Scottish sausages route, you will need a mincer/sausage-maker and natural casings. If you don’t have a fussy four-year-old, then you will need an ox bung to create your more traditional haggis—this too can be ordered from a decent butcher.

I have to say, I found the entire process both thrilling and cathartic. There is something exciting, almost alchemical, about the processes involved in making haggis. I can think of no other cooking process that begins with something as unappetising as a freshly boiled pluck and finishes as something as delicious and luxurious as haggis—sorry, ‘Scottish sausage’.

Chieftain o’ the puddin’ race
My son was presented with neeps, tatties and a fat Scottish sausage, as well as a deeply controversial onion gravy, which will disgust purists—including my mother-in-law, who voiced her displeasure. My argument that bangers and mash NEEDS onion gravy didn’t butter any neeps on the Scottish side of my family, for whom desecrating the ‘great chieftain o’ the puddin’-race’ with sassenach gravy was a scandal.

He ate half of his sausage and passed the rest to his sister, who has a taste already for spice and offal, and later wrote in his homework book under a picture of him and a Scottish sausage: “I have not lihkd [sic] haggis.”

Rarely, if ever, has a review cut so deep.