Sunday, February 3, 2013

Scotland - Haggis, Neeps and Tatties!

lungs n windpipe #haggis via xonnelgiarc
i heart haggis #haggis via xonnelgiarc
liver you long time #haggis via xonnelgiarc
So i finally got round to starting this cooking challenge and where better to start than my home country of Scotland. Haggis is our national dish and most people i know have never made it from scratch - simply bought it pre-packaged and then just boil it.

I delved deep into the internet and came up with a few recipes, folk stories and options and as i knew it was going to be a challenge i went with a recipe from 2009 Guardian newspaper with step by step photos and instructions (link there incase you want to try this at home - not for faint hearted).

Because some of the ingredients freaked me out a little, namely the intestine: used to hold the haggis mixture together like a bag, i altered the cooking method from boil in the bag to steaming the mixture laid out on a plate. This didn't alter the texture or flavour but it did stop me from throwing up when trying to clean the intestine which still had lumps of poo in it when i bought it at the market and which smelled like the worst baby nappy ever filled.

Ok so down to the ingredients:

1 sheep's heart - preferably fresh but not still beating.
1 sheep's liver
1 sheep's pluck = lungs and windpipe (this was the part that freaked me out most!)
300g of oatmeal - toasted under the grill until lightly browned
2 tbsp white pepper corns
2 tbsp black pepper corns
1 fist sized bunch of fresh herbs - I had fresh thyme and sage and rosemary stored in freezer so thats what i used.
1 large cows intestines - well cleaned - i gave up and chucked them in the bin after they made me vomit in the sink.
(a pair of rubber gloves as i knew the feel of the organs would give me the willies!)

Thursday 31 Jan
After returning from the market with the pluck, heart and liver i donned my rubber gloves and set to washing the organs. I filled a large pan with water and added a good tablespoon of salt. After washing the organs thoroughly i placed the liver and heart in the pan with water and then carefully placed the lungs in the pan - windpipe hanging out the pan to allow impurities to drip out and into another pan (see the photo) - if squeamish avoid looking in the pan that collects drips.
Bring the pot of organs to the boil and simmer gently for 1.5 hours. The organs will turn a greyish colour and just leave them sat in the water they boiled in until cool. I left them overnight.

Friday 1 Feb

cooked liver for haggis #rtw80p via xonnelgiarcI tried washing out the intestines in salt water, in vinegar, in bicarbonate of soda and it was just turning my stomach to the point of vomiting. the smell just wouldn't go away. I googled ideas on how to clean them properly and i came across a couple of sites that said bacteria living in the intestine can cause brain problems and/or paralysis if ingested and so i thought, best not to die making haggis. the intestines got chucked in the bin.

On a flat baking tray pour out the 300g of oatmeal and gently toast under the grill until browned. Place the oats in a food processer along with the washed herbs, the black and white pepper and blitz. No food processer then you will be busy chopping all this up finely.

Remove the organs from the water they have been boiled in. The liver and heart can be put straight in the food processer. I chopped the heart into pieces as i was nosey and wanted to see inside (see pic). Carefully remove the lungs and cut away the windpipe. One of the lungs looked very black and shrivelled and when i cut it open the inside looked dirty (not sure what it should look like) so i put it in the bin along with the windpipe. I placed the good lung in the food processer and gently pulsed until everything was chopped finely - like minced meat.

haggis heart #rtw80p via xonnelgiarcAs i had got rid of the "bag" to boil the haggis in i wasn't sure what i was going to cook it in. I thought about using a sock, a pair of tights, a condom etc. Then i thought about simply steaming it. If i laid the mix out in a bowl and simply steamed it for 30 minutes then it would cook the haggis. At the end of the day people didn't eat the intestine - if they did i certainly bloody wasn't, it was simply the casing used to boil the haggis. So thats what i did - got out the steamer!

I set up the steamer and steamed the haggis. Over the dried mixture i poured about 150-200ml of the leftover water from boiling the organs just to make the mixture moist but not too wet. I didnt find suet here in Beijing and decided against simply using butter. So that was another ingredient  missing - this didnt affect the flavour or texture at all and probably made the entire dish more healthy. Liver is very good for you and lungs are mostly pure protein and the heart too.

While steaming the haggis i washed and chopped some potatoes and some pumpkin - couldnt find neeps/turnips here so i decided that turnip would be the next best thing.

I put them in pans and boiled until soft. Once soft i drained them and mashed them with butter cracked black pepper, a little salt and a wee splash of whisky. 

haggis mix pre cooked #rtw80p via xonnelgiarcThe haggis was ready and the food got plated up for the three of us - me and two guests - one of them a scotsman who on facebook said that the meal tasted amazing - perhaps the whisky had him hammered but no! He had seconds!

Upon serving the haggis, neeps and tatties i gave it a tiny drizzle of whisky and simply enjoyed with a wee dram! 
This has been a learning experience and I'd happily say that it turned out delicious but im not sure i would make my own haggis again. Please let me know if you go ahead and try to make this as I'd be interested to know your experiences. So that's week one out of the way and now its on to deciding which country I will choose next! follow me on Twitter @rtw80p and please share this with your friends.

conquered the haggis #haggis via xonnelgiarc
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