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Scottish Haggis and Traditional Scottish Recipes
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.
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 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.
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.
- Clean head well and soak in salt and water for 2 hours to get rid of blood.
- Put in saucepan, cover with water.
- When boiling, skim well.
- Add peeled and diced vegetables and the remaining ingredients.
- Before adding the oatmeal, mix it to a smooth paste in a little of the stock.
- 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.
- 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.
- Melt syrup, treacle and butter in pan.
- Mix dry ingredients in a basin, then add melted mixture.
- Add in the whisked egg and mix to smooth consistency.
- 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.
- 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.
- Put oatmeal in a basin and pour cold water over it.
- Let it stand for 30 minutes.
- Then add the mixture to a large pan with the ½ pint water, and bring to boil stirring all the time.
- Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
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.
- 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.
- Sieve dry ingredients and rub in fat.
- Make a dough with milk.
- Turn out on to floured board, knead a little then roll out.
- Cut into 4 pieces and place on hot girdle, turning over to cook other side when done.