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Scottish Haggis and Traditional Scottish Recipes

Updated on April 11, 2013


When you think of Scotland’s cuisine, you automatically think of such delights as black pudding, skirlie, Lorne sausage and haggis.

What have these dishes all got in common? They all contain oatmeal.

Oats have been grown in Scotland for centuries and so practically all traditional dishes in Scotland include oats.

The list goes on - Sheep’s Head Broth, Curly Kail, A “Fitless Cock”, Brose, Sweet Haggis, Mealy Pudding, White Pudding, Gruel, Porridge, Fife Bannocks, Mashlam Scones, Oatmeal Gingerbread, Oatcakes, Sauty Bannocks and Barm Loaf, to name a few. [some recipes at foot of page]

The famous lexicographer Dr. Johnson’s definition of oats was: “A grain, which in England is generally given to the horses, but in Scotland supports the people” to which the reply was made “Yes, sir, but England has the finest horses and Scotland has the finest men.”

Scotland’s wet and temperate/cold climate is ideally suited to oat growing and the early diet of many Scots consisted of mainly oatmeal, fish, haggis and milk. Even today, there is nothing nicer than a freshly caught trout fried in a coating of oatmeal.

the haggis
the haggis

Haggis and the Scottish Diet

Historically, man first ate haggis in the year 83 AD when the oat crop failed.

Desperately starving, the people ate anything they could get their hands on, and driven by desperation, finally caught a haggis and cooked and ate it.

To their surprise, the haggis was delicious, and the following year when the oat harvest succeeded, mixed the haggis with oatmeal to produce the haggis we eat today.

The haggis, marag fabulosus, is a member of the family of duck-filled phatypuds (genus umbrus), the same group from which the duck-billed platypus of Australia derives.

They evolved from a migrating group of phatypuds that during the last Ice Age were trapped in Europe.

As the ice melted, they were forced northwards in search of cooler weather, and eventually became trapped in Scotland as the ice receded to reveal an island.

The haggis can neither swim nor fly.

As Scotland is cold and wet, and its mountain ranges often have snow on the mountain tops all the year round, they thrived in what was ideal climactic conditions for them.

Scientists have been unable to discover any other group of surviving phatypuds anywhere in the world, and so the haggis is unique to Scotland.

Throwing the Haggis. This practice is cruel to the Haggis

Haggis Tossing
Haggis Tossing

Haggis Hunting in Scotland

Some Interesting Facts about Haggis

The plural of haggis is haggii, and their name derives from the Latin word meaning “harried ones”. This is because everything with teeth is a predator of the haggis.

  • A small, flightless creature barely 1 foot across in length, it is smaller than a football and cannot run very well, due to one leg being shorter than the other.
  • Thousands of years of running round mountain tops has devolved their bodies into this unusual gait, which when on mountain tops is ideal but not when they come off the mountain to feed.
  • Their diet consists mainly of heather, turnips, potatoes and wild brambles, and in the depth of winter the heather dies back.
  • This forces them to come to the lower slopes where they are frequently eaten by predators.
  • Haggis hunting season runs between 30th November and 31st December. It is illegal to hunt haggis outwith this time.
  • The official term for haggis hunting is “havering”.
  • The expression “Haud Yer Wheesht” meaning ‘to be silent’ stems from the ancient art of haggis hunting. A wheesht is a cloak, which rustles in the breeze. Absolute silence is needed to capture a haggis, and so one might say to another haverer “Haud Yer Wheesht” meaning to hold your cloak to silence it.
  • It is not advisable to eat haggis eggs as they may be mistaken for deer droppings, having a similar appearance and colour.

Cooked Haggis with Oatmeal
Cooked Haggis with Oatmeal

An Illegal Haggis Hunt - check the date!


Some Myths Involving Haggis

  • A Haggis is meat and oatmeal mixed and stuffed in a sheep’s stomach. This is an absolute nonsense spread by Scots to help protect the haggis from their predators.
  • Haggis live in Loch Ness with the monster. Again this is absolute nonsense because the haggis is not aquatic.

Oatmeal and the Haggis

So now we know a little bit more about Scottish cuisine having looked at the historical aspects of Scotland's national dish, haggis and oatmeal, from which many dishes derived especially in lean years when haggis populations dropped.

For further information on the haggis, please refer to HAGGISCOLPEDIA.

Sheep's Head Broth

  • 1 sheep's head, sufficient water to cover it,
  • 3 carrots
  • 3 leeks
  • 3 teaspoonfuls salt
  • 3 turnips
  • 1 teaspoon pepper,
  • ¼lb of oatmeal.
  1. Clean head well and soak in salt and water for 2 hours to get rid of blood.
  2. Put in saucepan, cover with water.
  3. When boiling, skim well.
  4. Add peeled and diced vegetables and the remaining ingredients.
  5. Before adding the oatmeal, mix it to a smooth paste in a little of the stock.
  6. Bring to boil, stirring all the time, then reduce heat, cover saucepan, and let it simmer for 1½ to 2 hours.

A 'Fitless Cock'

4 oz oatmeal, 2 oz suet, finely chopped onion, salt, pepper, egg.

Mix all dry ingredients together and bind with beaten egg. Scald a cloth. Shape mixture like a fowl and tie in the cloth. Cook in boiling water for 2 hours. Serve with meat or fowl.

Oatmeal Gingerbread

  • 6 oz flour
  • 2 oz oatmeal
  • 2 oz butter
  • 2 oz sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 large tablespoon syrup
  • 1 large tablespoon treacle
  • 3/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 egg
  • a little milk or hot water.
  1. Melt syrup, treacle and butter in pan.
  2. Mix dry ingredients in a basin, then add melted mixture.
  3. Add in the whisked egg and mix to smooth consistency.
  4. Line a flat tin with greased paper, add mixture and bake in a moderate oven for 30 minutes.


Put required amount of oatmeal in a basin , add a little salt and pour boiling water over it to wet the oatmeal thoroughly. Let it stand to allow the oatmeal to swell and thicken. Eat with rich milk or cream.

Sweet Haggis

  • 3½lbs oatmeal
  • 2 lbs suet
  • 2lbs raisins or sultanas
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 level tablespoon back pepper
  • 3 dessertspoons sugar
  • I cup cold water.

Mix all together and put in a haggis bag (sheep's stomach). Sew up. Prick with fork, tie in cloth, place in boiling water and boil for 3 hours.


8 oz oatmeal, 4 oz chopped suet or dripping, 2 onions (chopped), salt and pepper.

Melt suet, add onion and brown. Add oatmean and stir over a gentle heat till cooked.


  • 1 tablespoon oatmeal
  • ½ pint water
  • pinch of salt.
  1. Put oatmeal in a basin and pour cold water over it.
  2. Let it stand for 30 minutes.
  3. Then add the mixture to a large pan with the ½ pint water, and bring to boil stirring all the time.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

White Puddings

Procure skins from butcher, 1/2lb oatmeal (toasted), 1/4lb suet, grated, chopped onion, pepper and salt.

Mix well. Half fill skins and tie at each end. Prick with needle, then place in boiling water for 2 hours. If skins are more than half-full they will burst.

Mashlam Scones

  • 4 oz plain flour
  • 4 oz oatmeal
  • ½ level teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • dripping or margarine
  • buttermilk or sour milk to mix.
  1. Sieve dry ingredients and rub in fat.
  2. Make a dough with milk.
  3. Turn out on to floured board, knead a little then roll out.
  4. Cut into 4 pieces and place on hot girdle, turning over to cook other side when done.


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    • PacificWorldDMC profile image

      Pacific World DMC & PCO 

      6 years ago from Barcelona

      Very interesting Hub !

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from UK

    • tapasrecipe profile image


      7 years ago from Spanish tapas land

      Izzy, what am i going to do with.Leave our colonial friends alone, i think this was once an April fools, or was it jeremy beadle.

      and i still have not found black queen of England thread yet

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from UK

      Thanks Shinkicker - just found your comment, it must have come through when the notification system was broken.

    • Shinkicker profile image


      8 years ago from Scotland

      I could never catch a haggis until someone told me that sheep eat them whole.

      Great Hub Izzy LOL

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from UK

      I haven't tasted any haggis for about 2 years! I miss it.

    • raisingme profile image


      9 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia

      Bashed neeps I love. Haggis....not so much!

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from UK

      Ketchup on haggis? double-yuk! Haggis is brilliant served with neep and tatties. Neep - turnip, swede, rutabaga? It's a bland and watery vegetable (yellow color) that when cooked and mashed with a bit of butter and black pepper is delicious with haggis. Or try a tablespoon of haggis served with roast chicken and gravy. Yum!

      I hated Burns suppers - all those odes to the haggis, and addresses to the haggis etc. Boring! Just serve me the grub, get the drink opened and start a ceildih!

    • raisingme profile image


      9 years ago from Fraser Valley, British Columbia

      Every Robbie Burn's Day growing up my father would 'bless' the haggis. Personally I felt blessed when the meal was over, not enough ketchup in the world - but then I bought the sheep's stomach story - even read the recipe. Trust the Scots to pull the wool over one's eyes. The bagpipes I love and it was worth it to me to confront the haggis just for the pure pleasure of listening to it being 'piped in'.

      Great Hub!

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from UK

      Thanks Habee and rmcrayne :)

      I don't know the name of the Turkish dish you mention, but I think maybe folks got confused between it and the haggis, which is not a sheep's stomach dish as I've pointed out above.

      Poor wee things!

    • rmcrayne profile image


      9 years ago from San Antonio Texas

      There is a Turkish food that is a stuffed sheep's stomach, but I forget what it's called.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 

      9 years ago from Georgia

      Izzy, I thoroughly enjoyed this hub! thumbs up!

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from UK

      Hey it must be some size of pan to cook a whole sheep's head! LOL I know how you feel about the haggis. I love it too but it's a shame these cute wee things have to die to be eaten :(

    • ethel smith profile image

      Ethel Smith 

      9 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Great recipes but I'll pass on the sheep's head lol. Sadly I love Haggis

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from UK

      @ Mysterylady, that was classic wasn't it!

      @ Joni, now you know the truth you might be tempted to try some. It's really lovely but can be quite spicy so have a glass of water handy :)

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from UK

      I felt like a kid in a sweetie shop the last time I was in a supermarket in the UK 2 years ago. Everything was so cheap!! And I still heard folk complaining LOL

      The prices for basic like milk/bread/eggs etc have more than doubled in 5 years and of course the poor exchange rate doesn't help. I sometimes get folk to bring me over stuff but not often. I can order haggis online - in fact there is a google ad on this page here from campbells foods saying they deliver haggis to the the EU, but I don't know for how much. Won't be cheap :(

    • Joni Douglas profile image

      Joni Douglas 

      9 years ago

      Wow, excellent hub. I always thought it was the sheep's stomach thing and thought eewwwww.

    • mysterylady 89 profile image

      mysterylady 89 

      9 years ago from Florida

      Izzy, i loved the rebuttal to Dr. Johnson's comment!

    • Merlin Fraser profile image

      Merlin Fraser 

      9 years ago from Cotswold Hills


      Don't know if you've been keeping up with the news from here, but you remember Booze cruises when the Brits went across the channel for bargins ?

      Well it seems the exchange rate with the Euro has reversed the procedure where it is now cheaper to food shop in the UK.

      A lot of expats are now Emailing their food shopping list to the UK someone does the shopping and ships it out.

      Even with shipping/or delivery it still works out cheaper than shopping there.

      I have no idea if it's France or Spain as well.

      Just a thought ... Special delivery Haggis ?

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from UK

      Yum! I agree - haggis is excellent with chicken (and so is black or redcurrent jelly)! Not tried it with pork but I can see the possibilities. Unfortunately here in Spain haggis is an expensive import and not worth buying for one person.

    • Merlin Fraser profile image

      Merlin Fraser 

      9 years ago from Cotswold Hills

      Hi Izzi,

      Interesting use for Haggis, seems logical to me now but when I first saw it on a menu it seemed a little out of the ordinary.

      Using Haggis as a stuffing to serve with Pork. I have since adapted it with Chicken or Turkey...

    • Kamran100 profile image


      9 years ago

      ya i read and enjoy that information....

    • IzzyM profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from UK

      Thanks, I hope you read all about the haggis! I think you can book haggis hunting trips now..

    • Kamran100 profile image


      9 years ago

      nice information.....useful hub!


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