What the Haggis did next
“ Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, Great Cheiftain o' the Puddin'-race! ”
Tonight is Burns Night – an evening which someone who grew up in the home counties is probably unqualified to write too much about. However, I've been a great admirer of the evening's famous centrepiece, the Haggis, since small times – it's meaty and peppery, and who doesn't love a big plateful of assorted mashes and thick beef gravy. I don't get to eat it as often as I'd like (Kathryn sadly doesn't share my affection for ground offal), so this weekend I cooked a semi-traditional Burns Supper for our sometimes-weekly poker game.
I'm a great believer in having too much rather than too little when cooking for guests (and also a huge fan of leftovers) and so there was still an entire cooked haggis left over at the end of the meal. At the risk of further enraging my Scots associates, here's the inauthentic-yet-delicious ways I got rid of it.
Potato Scones with Haggis
Anyone who ever claims that the Full English is the king of breakfasts has obviously never found themselves squinting their way around Edinburgh or Glasgow at 10am, looking for sustenance – the Full Scottish is the only solution to that noise in your head, and its superiority is almost entirely down to the Tatty Scone. I've been strictly forbidden to tamper with the purity of this simple dish, but I fail to see the harm in combining these two most Scottish of dishes – especially when it's such a total masterpiece when you do.
- Boil up some potatoes in well-salted water – as much as you fancy, really, depending on how many hungover people you're attempting to feed. Run cold water over the potatoes when you strain them – you're going to be handling them, and it helps if they don't burn your skin off when you do. Mash them up reeeeal good, probably with a bit of butter (you don't have to, but you almost certainly will). You could theoretically use left-over mash, but I'm not sure this substance actually exists. Mix in the cooked haggis, crumbling it up – it's easy to put it in as chunks, and then break it up with your masher or the back of a wooden spoon.
- Put a dusting of plain flour in a biggish mixing bowl, and then transfer the mash on top. Put a good amount of flour onto the mash, and mix it in. At first it'll seem like it's a ridiculous thing to be doing – just keep adding flour and mixing well until it starts clumping, then stops being sticky. The best thing to do is just keep kneading it with your hands – messy, but it gets the job done. Eventually it'll become a lovely dough – soft and pliable, but not sticky.
- Spread some flour out onto the cleanest, flattest surface in you kitchen. Most recipes tell you to roll your dough out with a rolling pin, then cut the dough into the correct shapes (traditionally, a wedge shape). I usually find it a lot less hassle just to roll your dough with your hands into a fat sausage shape (about as thick as a beer can) and then cut it into fair-sized discs with a knife. You can now simply squash these out with your palm into fairly thin pancake shapes (probably about a centimeter thick), trying to keep the thickness as even as possible.
- Get a pan pretty hot – I use a cast-iron pan, with my horrible electric hob set at 4 (out of 6). If you've just got a frying pan, that's fine. Put a tiny bit of oil in there (maybe brush it around with a bit of kitchen roll) – you're not really trying to fry these in oil, just heat them evenly. As you put them into the pan, stab them evenly all over with a fork (don't forget this bit, it's easy to do, and it's surprisingly important).
- Eat them – probably with some eggs cooked however you like (*cough* poached *cough*) and maybe a tin of beans.
Hagù – a Haggis Ragù
This is likely far more sacrilegious – it wasn't really a very original idea on my part either, as it was inspired by a haggis lasagna that Kathryn's sister made for us a few years ago. I don't care (on either count) – it was the best kind of comfort food, and perfect for rounding off Sunday evening.
- Make a soffritto – or, if you don't shop at Waitrose or have an opinion on Parmesan, you can just finely chop a decent-sized carrot, a couple of sticks of celery, and an onion, and fry them all gently for about fifteen minutes. Finely chop some garlic, and once your veg are nicely softened, push them over and fry the garlic for a couple of minutes in a splash of oil. Once it's starting to colour, mix it all up and put a good glug of milk into the pan, then cook that down until it's thickened.
- Mix in the cooked haggis – again, just break it up with the back of a wooden spoon. Mix in a tin of tomatoes or carton of passata, and if you want to, a beef or vegetable stock cube (I usually use one of those little demi-glace pots). I also add a decent sprinkle of Cayenne – haggis has already got a lovely peppery kick, but if you feel like it you can add a bit more. Add a good slosh of water from the kettle, too, then leave this to cook.
- When it's all bubbled down nicely, it should be thick and gloopy. Boil up some pasta (I just used penne as the first thing that came to hand – nice chunky shapes are probably better for this; it's too thick and unctuous for spaghetti or similar). Drain the pasta, add to the sauce, and mix it right up. Serve in those massive bowls that you ate every meal out of when you were a student.
One last note – season these as and when you want, I'm not going to tell you what you're doing there. As far as I'm concerned, a dish with haggis added is probably already seasoned okay.