Haggis: Wikis


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Haggis, neeps & tatties

Haggis is a dish containing sheep's 'pluck' (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally simmered in the animal's stomach for approximately three hours.

Haggis is a kind of sausage, or savoury pudding cooked in a casing of sheep's intestine, as sausages are. As the 2001 English edition of the Larousse Gastronomique puts it, "Although its description is not immediately appealing, haggis has an excellent nutty texture and delicious savoury flavour".[1]

Most modern commercial haggis is prepared in a casing rather than an actual stomach. There are also meat-free recipes for vegetarians.

The haggis is a traditional Scottish dish memorialised as the national dish of Scotland by Robert Burns' poem Address to a Haggis in 1787. Haggis is traditionally served with "neeps and tatties" (Scots: swede, yellow turnip or rutabaga and potatoes, boiled and mashed separately) and a "dram" (i.e. a glass of Scotch whisky), especially as the main course of a Burns supper. However it is also often eaten with other accompaniments, or served with a whisky-based sauce.



Haggis is popularly assumed to be of Scottish origin, but there is a lack of historical evidence that could conclusively attribute its origins to any one place or nation.

The first known written recipe for a dish of the name (as 'hagese'), made with offal and herbs, is in the verse cookbook Liber Cure Cocorum dating from around 1430 in Lancashire, North West England.[2]

For hagese'.
Þe hert of schepe, þe nere þou take,
Þo bowel noght þou shalle forsake,
On þe turbilen made, and boyled wele,
Hacke alle togeder with gode persole,

The Scottish poem Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy, which is dated before 1520 (the generally accepted date prior to the death of William Dunbar, one of the composers), refers to 'haggeis'.[3]

Thy fowll front had, and he that Bartilmo flaid; The gallowis gaipis eftir thy graceles gruntill, As thow wald for ane haggeis, hungry gled.

William Dunbar, Flyting of Dunbar and Kennedy

An early printed recipe for haggis appears in 1615 in “The English Huswife” by Gervase Markham. It contains a section entitled “Skill in Oate meale”.[4]

The use and vertues of these two severall kinds of Oate-meales in maintaining the Family, they are so many (according to the many customes of many Nations) that it is almost impossible to recken all;” and then proceeds to give a description of “oat-meale mixed with blood, and the Liver of either Sheepe, Calfe or Swine, maketh that pudding which is called the Haggas or Haggus, of whose goodnesse it is in vaine to boast, because there is hardly to be found a man that doth not affect them

Gervase Markham, The English Huswife

Although there is no precise date for the first preparation of haggis, the earliest recorded consumption of the related French dish Andouillette can be traced back to an actual date in the ninth century - it was served at the coronation of King Louis II in Troyes on 7 September 878.[5][6]

Food writer Alan Davidson goes back further, stating that the Ancient Romans were the first people known to have made products of the haggis type.[7] Even earlier, a kind of primitive haggis is referred to in Homer's Odyssey, in book 20, (towards the end of the eighth century BC) when Odysseus is compared to "a man before a great blazing fire turning swiftly this way and that a stomach full of fat and blood, very eager to have it roasted quickly". Haggis was "born of necessity, as a way to utilize the least expensive cuts of meat and the innards as well" (Andrew Zimmern). Since the internal organs rapidly perish, it is likely that haggis-like preparations have been around since pre-history.

Clarissa Dickson Wright claims that it "came to Scotland in a longship [ie. from Scandinavia] even before Scotland was a single nation."[8] Dickson-Wright further cites etymologist Walter William Skeat as further suggestion of possible Scandinavian origins: Skeat claimed that the hag– part of the word is derived from the Old Norse hoggva or the Old Icelandic haggw[9] (höggva in modern Icelandic[10]), meaning 'to hew' or strike with a sharp weapon, relating to the chopped-up contents of the dish. One theory claims that the name "haggis" is derived from Norman French. Norman French was more guttural than normal French so that the "ch" of "hachis", i.e. "chopped", was pronounced as the "ch" in "loch", giving "haggis". This conjecture, however, is discredited by the Oxford English Dictionary.[11]

Dickson Wright suggests that haggis was invented as a way of cooking quick-spoiling offal near the site of a hunt, without the need to carry along an additional cooking vessel. The liver and kidneys could be grilled directly over a fire, but this treatment was unsuitable for the stomach, intestines, or lungs. Chopping up the lungs and stuffing the stomach with them and whatever fillers might have been on hand, then boiling the assembly — likely in a vessel made from the animal's hide — was one way to make sure these parts did not go to waste.[12]


In the absence of hard facts as to haggis' origins, popular folklore has provided more fanciful theories. One is that the dish originates from the days of the old Scottish cattle drovers. When the men left the highlands to drive their cattle to market in Edinburgh the women would prepare rations for them to eat during the long journey down through the glens. They used the ingredients that were most readily available in their homes and conveniently packaged them in a sheep's stomach allowing for easy transportation during the journey. Other speculations have been based on Scottish slaughtering practices. When a Chieftain or Laird required an animal to be slaughtered for meat (whether sheep or cattle) the workmen were allowed to keep the offal as their share.

A frequent tale is that a "Haggis" is a small Scottish animal with one set of legs longer than the other so that it can stand on the steep Scottish Highlands without falling over. According to one poll, 33% of American visitors to Scotland believe haggis to be an animal.[13]

Modern usage

Recitation of the poem Address to a Haggis by Robert Burns is an important part of the Burns supper.

Haggis is traditionally served with the Burns supper on the week of January 25, when Scotland's national poet, Robert Burns, is commemorated. He wrote the poem Address to a Haggis, which starts "Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!" During Burns's lifetime haggis was a popular dish for the poor, as it was very cheap, being made from leftover, otherwise thrown away, parts of a sheep (the most common livestock in Scotland), yet nourishing.

Haggis is widely available in supermarkets in Scotland and other parts of the world all the year round, with cheaper brands normally packed in artificial casings, rather than stomachs, just as cheaper brands of sausages are no longer stuffed into animal intestines. Sometimes haggis is sold in tins, which can simply be microwaved or oven-baked. Some supermarket haggis is largely made from pig, rather than sheep, offal.

Haggis can be served in Scottish fast-food establishments deep fried in batter. Together with chips, this comprises a "haggis supper". A "haggis burger" is a patty of fried haggis served on a bun, and a "haggis bhaji" is another deep fried variant, available in some Indian restaurants in Glasgow.

A modern haggis variant often served in higher class restaurants is the "Flying Scotsman", which is chicken breast stuffed with haggis. This can in turn be wrapped in bacon to create a dish known as "Chicken Balmoral".[14] Haggis can also be used as a substitute for minced beef in various recipes.[citation needed]

Since the 1960s various Scottish shops and manufacturers have created vegetarian haggis for those who do not eat meat. These substitute various pulses and vegetables for the meat in the dish.

Drinks with haggis

Scotch whisky is often asserted to be the traditional accompaniment for haggis, though this may simply be because both are traditionally served at a Burns supper. Warren Edwardes of Wine for Spice notes that haggis is spicy and therefore recommends refreshing semi-sparkling wines to drink with haggis with increasing level of sweetness depending in the spiciness of the haggis: whisky, with its high alcohol level, can exaggerate peppery spice (unlike the capsaicin in chili, which it dissolves) rather than complement it.[15] Haggis-maker MacSween conducted a taste-test[16] which confirmed that whisky is a proper accompaniment, and adds that lighter-bodied, tannic red wines, such as those made from the Barbera grape, are also suitable, as are strong, powerfully flavoured Belgian beers, such as Duvel and Chimay Blue.

Outside Scotland

Haggis platter at a Burns Supper in the U.S.

Haggis remains popular with expatriate Scots in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, owing to the strong connotations with Scottish culture, especially for Burns Suppers. It can easily be made in any country, but is sometimes imported from Scotland.

Haggis may not be imported into the USA from the UK since the BSE crisis of 1989. This is due to haggis' offal ingredients such as sheep lungs. The British Food Standards Agency disputes these concerns, and states that there is no reason for the import of haggis to be restricted.[17] In 2010 a spokeswoman for the US Department of Agriculture stated that they were reviewing the ban on beef and lamb products but no time frame was set.[18]

Starting in Vancouver, British Columbia, and having since spread in popularity, Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinners, celebrating a fusion of Scottish and Chinese cultures, have been hosted since 1998. These dinners include traditional haggis as well as haggis-stuffed won tons and haggis lettuce wrap.[citation needed]

Other uses

A fictional Wild Haggis, Haggis scoticus, next to a prepared specimen, as displayed at the Glasgow Kelvingrove Gallery

Haggis is used in a sport called haggis hurling, which involves throwing a haggis as far as possible. The present Guinness World Record for Haggis Hurling has been held by Alan Pettigrew for over 25 years. He threw a 1.5 lb Haggis 180 feet, 10 inches on the island of Inchmurrin, Loch Lomond, in August 1984.[19]

On October 8, 2008, competitive eater Eric "Steakbellie" Livingston set a world record by consuming 3 pounds of haggis in 8 minutes on WMMR radio in Philadelphia.[20]

Following his victory in The Masters golf tournament in 1988, Scottish golfer Sandy Lyle chose to serve Haggis at the annual Champions Dinner before the 1989 Masters.[21]


  1. ^ Montagné, Prosper (2001). Larousse Gastronomique. p. 592. 
  2. ^ Liber cure Cocorum - A Modern English Translation with Notes, -Based on Richard Morris' transcription of 1862.
  3. ^ Dunbar, William; Harriet Harvey Wood (2003). William Dunbar: Selected Poems. Routledge. p. 18. ISBN 0415969433. 
  4. ^ Markham, Gervase (1631). The English House-wife, Containing the Inward and Outward Vertues Which Ought to Be in a Compleate Woman (4th Edition). John Harison. p. 240. 
  5. ^ "Troyes, d'hier a aujourd'hui", Retrieved on 2009-08-03
  6. ^ http://www.geni.com/people/Louis-II-King-of-Aquitaine-and-King-of-West-Francia/2430192
  7. ^ Davidson, Alan (2006). The Oxford Companion to Food. UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0192806815. 
  8. ^ Barham, Andrea (2005). The Pedant's Revolt: Why Most Things You Think Are Right Are Wrong. Michael O'Mara Books Ltd. ISBN 1-84317-132-5. 
  9. ^ The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, 1996. Retrieved on 29 June 2009
  10. ^ An Icelandic-English Dictionary, Page 309, Richard Cleasby, Guðbrandur Vigfússon, George Webbe Dasent - 1874
  11. ^ "Haggis", etymology in Oxford English Dictionary, second edition, 1989 (on-line). Retrieved on 29 June 2009
  12. ^ Dickson Wright, Clarissa (1998). The Haggis: A Little History. Pelican Publishing Company. ISBN 1-56554-364-5. 
  13. ^ "American tourists believe Haggis is an animal", guardian.co.uk, 2003-11-27.
  14. ^ http://living.scotsman.com/recipes/Lets-toast-the-Great-Chieftain.4910403.jp
  15. ^ Wine With Haggis.
  16. ^ Drinks with haggis. Retrieved on 2009-05-29.
  17. ^ "Scots ask US to lift haggis ban". BBC News. 2008-01-20. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/7198751.stm. Retrieved 2009-05-25. 
  18. ^ "US planning to relax haggis ban". BBC News. 2010-01-26. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8480795.stm. Retrieved 2010-01-31. 
  19. ^ Haggis hurling record. Retrieved on 2009-05-29.
  20. ^ "International Federation of Competitive Eating". IFOCE. 2008-10-08. http://ifoce.com/news.php?action=detail&sn=639. Retrieved 2009-05-25. 
  21. ^ The Course. The Official Site of the Masters Tournament. Retrieved on 2007-01-08.

See also

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

HAGGIS, a dish consisting of a calf's, sheep's or other animal's heart, liver and lungs, and also sometimes of the smaller intestines, boiled in the stomach of the animal with seasoning of pepper, salt, onions, &c., chopped fine with suet and oatmeal. It is considered peculiarly a Scottish dish, but was common in England till the 18th century. The derivation of the word is obscure. The Fr. hachis, English "hash," is of later appearance than "haggis." It may be connected with a verb "to hag," meaning to cut in small pieces, and would then be cognate ultimately with "hash."

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