Thursday, August 11, 2004

Due South
By Mark Entwistle
The Southern Reporter
Selkirk, The Borders

Haggis recipe

This week at The Southern Reporter found editorial staff entering a new stage of the computer age.

Our dearly loved - but old - Apple Macs were replaced with shiny brand new PCs.

New trainee reporter Craig Keddie, at the tender age of 19, was soon whizzing his way round the new system as if he had been using it all his life.

For some of us older and more long in the tooth hacks its definitely going to take just that wee bit longer.

Our great summer weather came to an end 10 days ago, just in time for the biggest public outdoor event of the year here in the Scottish Borders.

The Border Union Show is always staged over the last Friday and Saturday of July, and this year were expecting around 20,000 folk to stream through the gates to view a hoist of competitions for horses, ponies, cattle, sheep, goats, poultry - even pots of jam!

But the Friday dawned cloudy and overcast and it was not long before the heavens opened and the rain started falling.

Saturday, however was at least dry and at least a grand time was still had by all who braved the damp weather if the crowds packing the various beer tents were anything to go by!

My wife tried her hand for the first time at entering the show’s industrial classes, which are competitions for things like best jams and preserves, best baking, best floral art displays and so on.

Much to her disappointment, neither her cheese scones - the final batch out of about 50 trial runs that left our kitchen in chaos - or her flower arranging efforts won anything at all.

That meant the gloves were off for the Berwickshire County Show at the weekend just past. The baking attempts were ditched in order to focus totally on the flower arranging classes.

And much to my wife’s delight, she took three first places and a third which gave her most points in the floral art classes and the overall trophy - in this case a silver Scots quaich two-handled traditional drinking cup.

Needless to say, the pile of entry forms for the rest of the season’s flower shows is getting bigger!

The big news stories in The Southern Reporter last week ( if you want to check them out for yourselves, and catch up on Linda’s musings for her Scottish readers, the web address is included calls from animal rights activisits to boycott a coming horse show, a dispute between rival ice cream sellers and a new clutch of rare osprey chicks that have just hatched.

Linda mentioned that some of her readers were keen on the idea of finding out a bit more about a traditional Scottish dish, namely haggis.

A champion haggis should be firm and slightly sticky, with no tendency to dry out or crumble too much.

Most traditional Scottish butchers sell their own home made haggis and guard the recipe fiercely. This one comes from the Glasgow Cookery Book from around 1926.

1 sheep’s pluck. i.e. the animals heart, liver, and lights (lungs)
cold water
1 sheep’s stomach (empty)
1lb. lightly toasted pinhead oatmeal (medium or coarse oatmeal)
1-2 tablespoons salt
1 level tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon freshly ground allspice
1 level tablespoon of mixed herbs
8oz finely chopped suet
4 large onions, finely chopped
(lemon juice (or a good vinegar) is sometimes added as well as other
flavourings such as cayenne pepper)

Wash the stomach in cold water until it is thoroughly clean and thensoak it in cold salted water for about 8-10 hours.

Place the pluck in a large pot and cover with cold water. The windpipe ought to be hung over the side of the pot with a container beneath it in order to collect any drips. Gently simmer the pluck for approximately 2 hours or until it is tender and then leave the pluck to cool.

Finely chop or mince the pluck meat and then mix it with the oatmeal. Add about half a pint of the liquor in which the pluck was cooked (or use a good stock). Add the seasonings, suet and onions, ensuring everything is well mixed.

Fill the stomach with the mixture, leaving enough room for the oatmeal to expand into. Press out the air and then sew up the haggis. Prick the haggis a few times with a fine needle. Place the haggis it in boiling water and simmer for approximately 3 hours.

As you can tel from the recipe, most Scots buy their haggis ready-made from the butcher. It’s a lot easier and means your kitchen doesn’t end up looking like a slaughterhouse!

And if you are wondering what to serve with your haggis, the traditional Scottish accompaniment is called ‘clapshot’.

Although a lot of people prefer plain mashed potato - known as chappit tatties - and turnips mashed with butter and a little black pepper - known as bashed neeps. This makes a nice change.

However, for the intrepid cooks amongst you, clapshot ingredients are as follows:

1 lb. potatoes
1 lb. turnips
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoonful chopped chives
Butter and milk
Salt and pepper

Peel the potatoes and swede. Cut both into roughly the same size pieces. Put into a deep pan with the onions. Add boiling water to cover and simmer gently until the ingredients are just soft. Drain off the cooking liquor.

Mash everything thoroughly, adding chives and enough milk and butter to make a light consistency. Season well with salt and pepper. Serve with cheese as a meal, or with haggis. Clapshot will accompany many stews or fried meats.

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