Haggis: What it is and why you should try it when you visit Scotland

Scotland is a small country but its beauty is huge. The northern extreme of the UK is awash with craggy and forbidding mountain ranges, sweeping heather covered glens, sparkling bodies of water known as lochs, tiny fishing villages, laird’s castles and a ton of historical sights. HaggisThe major cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh are vibrant, cultural and proud. Scotland offers visitors plenty to keep them occupied in summer with all manner of outdoor activities from the beaches to the towns, and winter even offers snow-based fun in the Cairngorms.

On-trend foodies know that Scotland doesn’t have the best reputation for a fine culinary tradition. It does have some most excellent restaurants that make use of the fabulous fresh produce of the country, including the freshest seafood and game, but somehow, it’s the deep-fried pizza and Mars Bar said to be the staple foods of Glasgow, that is foremost. Travelers on a Europe tour who are lucky enough to have Scotland included in their itinerary should ignore the stories of horror foods. Instead, there are restaurants offering the modern take on scallops, langoustines, roe deer and pheasant, alongside dishes that have been served and eaten in the country for centuries – like Cock-a-leekie soup, Cullen Skink, oatcakes, Cranachan, Arbroath Smokies, and of course, the famed Haggis.

Haggis is a dish not to be taken lightly, nor is it to be ignored simply because its description doesn’t sound appetising. Made properly, it is a delicious, warming dish – the perfect panacea for those cold windy days in the Highlands. It is made from pluck – the heart, liver and lungs of a sheep, mixed with oatmeal, suet, and onion, heavily seasoned and encased in a sheep’s stomach. The meat is chopped or minced, mixed with all the other ingredients with some stock it keep it moist, stuffed into the casing and boiled. It is traditionally served with neeps and tatties – pureed turnips and mashed potato. There is some debate about the neeps because it can be either the yellow-fleshed vegetable known elsewhere in the UK as a swede (rutabaga), or the smaller, white-fleshed turnip. The final flourish is the stock made into a tasty gravy/jus.

Essentially, haggis is a form of sausage, and no different to ‘proper’ sausages that are made from minced meats, a filler to hold it together – usually rusk, and seasoning, stuffed into a pig intestine. Some modern recipes ignore the need for the casing, and the haggis is served as a kind of meatloaf, but traditionalists would always eschew this idea in favour of cutting open the haggis to two-halves for serving.

Visitors to Scotland who are intrepid enough to sample the country’s most famed delicacy should go for the real experience. At a formal dinner, the haggis is brought to the table with great aplomb and flourish, accompanied by a lone piper. Certainly, no Burns Night supper would ever pass without the sound of the bagpipes for the ceremony of delivering the haggis.

There are some that say, you have never tasted Scotland if you’ve never tried haggis!

This is a guest post:  TravAddict specializes in tours to Scotland and other European Destinations

Image by Meritosh on Flickr