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Haggis: the sonsie diet option

By on January 7, 2013

The December feasting is over, so now to January – and haggis, says Ginny Clark.

One of the most entertaining stories concerning haggis I’ve heard did not involve small wild creatures or even a wisp of Scotch mist. Good friend and westendreport.com contributor Ruth Allen recalls her days as a junior reporter on The Kilmarnock Standard in 1969, when infamous celebrity TV cook and writer Fanny Cradock and her husband Johnnie arrived in the town as part of a UK tour giving cookery demonstrations on behalf of the Gas Board.

She said: “I was to interview Fanny before the show but as I waited to meet the great lady, I heard her screaming at her charming personal assistant that she wasn’t going to speak to any ‘f****** junior reporter from a two-bit weekly newspaper’.  So – no interview, then.  But I still managed to make the front page because Fanny told the audience she’d recently suffered a nervous breakdown but had cured herself by going on a diet which consisted entirely of haggis.”

Ruth also passed on this magnificent tale to Hillhead writer Deedee Cuddihy who included it in her own anthology, How to Murder a Haggis (2007).

The story merely serves to demonstrate the great versatility of this product. You can make haggis canapés, stuff it into chicken, bake it in a pie, sprinkle it on a pizza or slice and fry it for breakfast. And of course, it’s 20 years since Charan Gill introduced the delights of haggis pakora to the West End at Murphy’s Pakora Bar (which became The Goat and now Che Que Bo*).

However, it is to the plain but pleasing dish of haggis and neeps we turn this month, as we also celebrate the 1759 birthday of our national bard Rabbie Burns on January 25.

Once you tuck in, with or without the accompanying dram, it’s like becoming reacquainted with an old friend – why don’t we eat haggis all year round? Well, some of us do … That combination of lamb, beef, cereals, onions, spices and seasoning can be habit-forming. The vegetarian versions, of course, are as adept at multi-tasking as the meaty originals.

And some of us will find favour with particular brands or butcher varieties, with the details of those cereal and spice combinations as fiercely guarded as the ingredients that go into the brew for our other national drink …

Glasgow haggis producer McLay’s Master Butcher, based close to the West End, on Glentanar Road, have been turning out the puddings since 1860. So their advice on preparing haggis is useful to keep handy, along with your copy of The Poems of Robert Burns.

McLay’s reminds us haggis is a cooked product, so needs careful – but thorough – reheating.

First, bring a pan of water to the boil.

Place the haggis in the boiling water – then make sure you now turn the heat down.

It’s important the water is not allowed to boil for a second time as this can result in the casings bursting. The length of time the haggis should simmer is dependant on the size of haggis being cooked – so check your haggis first.

And for the best results, serve on a piping hot plate – with neeps and tatties. Ms Cradock would surely have approved …

* Update – Now Happy Lets

Picture by zoonabar @ flickr.com

News cutting below from the Kilmarnock Standard, January 31, 1969.

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