What is haggis?

Haggis
A traditional Scottish dish!
Image source: Thinkstock.

The Scottish celebration of Burns Night is upon us, where many a Scot will be toasting to the haggis in memory of the poet Robert Burns. Though what exactly is this delicacy that will grace the tables at Burns Nights being held across the country?

Haggis
Traditionally served in a sheep’s stomach, it is now more commonly served in an artificial sausage casing.
Image source: Thinkstock.

What is haggis?

Contrary to some rumours, haggis isn’t a small animal with longer legs on one side of its body so it can scurry around the highlands. It is in fact a combination of sheep’s pluck (heart, liver, and lungs), oats, onions and spices, all wrapped up in the sheep’s stomach – or in an artificial sausage casing. While that might not sound that appealing to those of us who aren’t used to eating the less popular parts of an animal, it is a much loved dish of the Scots.

Traditionally, haggis is accompanied by some neeps and tatties – potatoes and swede to those who aren’t native to Scotland – as well as some whiskey. Though it is indeed a dish associated with Scotland, its origins may be more widespread. There are several mentions of haggis dating back across the centuries, even a more primitive version featuring in Homer’s Odyssey!

Address to a haggis
Address to a haggis!
Image source: Thinkstock.

Where did it come from?

Haggis as we know it started off by using up the cuts of meat which couldn’t be preserved, and then mixing them with oats. This is thought to come from the days of cattle drovers, where wives would prepare a meal for their husbands using ingredients that were readily available, to be taken with them as they travelled through the glens.

This traditional dish was launched into international stardom when the famous Scottish poet, Robert Burns, penned “Address to a Haggis”. Burns is considered the greatest Scottish poet of all time, and is a national emblem. Scots across the world celebrate his life and poetry on his birthday, the 25th January, featuring the famous dish and its accompanying verse. Burns Night is a filled with good hearted fun, music and dancing – definitely something to experience at least once in your lifetime!

I want to try some!

If you’re feeling inspired by Burns Night and want to try the famous haggis for yourself, why not check out some of these recipes? Danny’s blog Food Urchin has a wonderfully helpful step by step guide for how to make your very own haggis. Or if you’d prefer a vegetarian version, check out Jacqueline’s delightful vegan haggis, neeps and tatties burger on her food blog, Tinned Tomatoes!

Do you celebrate Burns Night? Tell us your favourite thing about the occasion by leaving a comment on our Facebook page!

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