"Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!"
25th of January is Burns Night or is it day? Any way we will be celebrating it in the restaurant in the traditional manner with a plate of 'haggis, bashit neeps and chappit tatties'. For the non Scottish speakers amongst you chappit tatties are just mash potatoes and the bashit neep are roughly mashed turnip - or swede as they say somewhere south of the border, the neeps n tatties are seasoned highly with salt and freshly ground black pepper, a tiny touch of nutmeg and enriched with a knob of butter, cooking the neep in a bay leaf or two adds a nice savoury note as well.
A proper haggis is made of a sheep's 'pluck' (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, salt and cooked in stock and traditionally poached in a sheeps intestine - nice eh -but most modern commercial haggis is prepared in a casing rather than an actual stomach.
The origins of haggis are not 'allegedly' Scottish and go waaay back to pre Roman times with reference to a similar dish in Homer's Odyssey, but the first recorded recipes start appearing in the early 1600's. It's commonly thought that it was created by cattle drovers wifes who would pop the pluck - all convenient ingredients - into the sheep stomachs, a bit like a glorified pack lunch. But like a lot of Scottish cooking it is a case of invention being the Mother of necessity and owes its popularity to the fact that it was very cheap, being made from leftover parts of a sheep but cooked carefully it is still filling and nourishing.
But it was Burns who immortalised it in the renowned Address To A Haggis circa 1787 and from then on we Scots can lay claim to its designation of origin.
Current trends in the preparation and serving of haggis include battered in a haggis supper...salt n sauce of course, pakora, breaded bon bons, burgers or as a mince substitute in lasagne and moussaka which I am a bit wary of and I even saw Cream of Haggis soup on a blackboard recently definitely not sure about that one!.
However you like your haggis enjoy it on Burns Day with a dram and I recommend a Speyside whisky as their gentle honeyed sweetness compliments the spicy nature of haggis.
The recipe below is a fancy dan way of serving haggis and takes a bit of effort but worth it all the same.
Haggis stuffed chicken with roasted root vegetables
Prep time:15 min
Cook time:55 min
1 skinless chicken breast
2-3 new potatoes, quartered
1 small handful carrots, chopped
1 small handful parsnips, chopped
1 small handful swede, diced
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 rashers streaky bacon
2-3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp thyme, leaves only
50g unsalted butter
175ml chicken stock, (or lamb or beef stock)
1 dash of whiskey
1 small handful parsley, chopped
1. Preheat oven 200C/gas 6.
2. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add potatoes, carrot, parsnips and swede, bring back to boil and cook for 7-8 minutes until partially cooked cooked. Drain.
3. Meanwhile cut an incision lengthways in the chicken to make a pocket, roll the haggis into sausage shape, stuff into pocket, close over, brush mustard on chicken and wrap the chicken in the bacon.
4. Heat the oil in an ovenproof frying pan, add vegetables and garlic and fry over a medium heat until the vegetables colour.
5. Season the vegetables, add the chicken and seal on both sides. Add the thyme, half the butter and put the pan in the oven for approx 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked (a meat thermometer is handy for this and should read above 82C).
6. Once cooked, remove the vegetables and chicken from the pan and keep warm.
7. Put the pan on the stove over a high heat, add the whisky, and set fire to the whisky with the pan juices. Once the alcohol has burned off, add the stock and reduce by half. Just before serving, whisk in remaining butter and add the parsley.
8. Place the vegetables on a plate, carve the chicken and place on top, pour over the whisky-flavoured pan juices and garnish with watercress, if using.
Chef's tip: John advises that you use a drier haggis for this recipe, as fresh haggis can be a bit soft/difficult to stuff with.