Scots and people who claim Scottish ancestry are celebrating Robbie Burns Day this week on Jan. 25.
The centrepiece of the celebratory Burns Day meal is haggis, ceremonially announced by a piper.
Haggis is a savoury pudding made from the minced organ meat (called the “pluck”) of a sheep — the heart, lungs (also called lights), and liver — combined with oatmeal, onion, spices, salt, and stock. It’s stuffed like sausage meat into a sheep’s stomach and simmered for several hours.
This historical recipe makes me reflect on how much easier cooking is for me than it was for my ancestors.
From McNeill, F. Marian: “Recipes from Scotland,” Albyn Press, Edinburgh, Seventh Ed. 1965.
1 sheep’s pluck: liver, lights and heart
the large stomach bag
1/2 lb fresh beef suet
1 breakfastcupful fine oatmeal
2 or 3 onions
salt and pepper
1 breakfastcupful stock or gravy
Clean the paunch of stomach bag thoroughly; wash first in cold water, then plunge into boiling water and scrape; then leave to soak over night in cold salted water. In the morning put it aside with the rough side turned out.
Wash the small bag and the pluck, and put them on to boil in cold water to cover, letting the wind-pipe hang out over the pot to let any impurities pass out freely. Boil for an hour and a half, then remove and cut away the pipes and any superfluities of gristle. Mince the heart and lights, and grate half the liver. (The rest is not required.)
Mince the onions and suet, and toast the oatmeal very slowly before the fire or in a warm oven. Mix all these ingredients together and season with salt, plenty of black pepper and a pinch of cayenne. Pour over this sufficient of the pluck bree (broth) to make the mixture sappy. Fill the bag rather more than half full — say five-eighths. It needs plenty of room to swell. Press out the air and sew the bag up securely. Put it into a pot of fast-boiling water, and prick it with a large needle when it first swells, to prevent bursting. Boil slowly but steadily for three hours, without the lid, adding more boiling water as required. Serve very hot without any garnish.
Haggis has, of course, evolved, as most recipes do. It is sometimes made with pork, or even ground beef, I understand, and sausage casings have replaced sheep’s stomachs.
When thinking of preparing food with a Scottish twist, I’m more inclined to make a hearty soup than a haggis. Here are two recipes for Scotch Broth, one made the conventional way and a faster version which is cooked in a pressure cooker.
Scotch Broth With Barley
Adapted from Stewart, Anita: “Anita Stewart’s Canada,”
HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., Toronto, 2008.
1 kg (2 lb) lean lamb shanks
2 L (8 cups) cold water
2 onions, minced
150 mL (2/3 cup) dried soup vegetables
7 mL (1 1/2 tsp) salt
2 mL (1/2 tsp) freshly ground black pepper
1 cup barley
2 or 3 diced carrots
500 mL (2 cups) shredded cabbage
375 mL (1 1/2 cups) diced turnip
In a large soup kettle, combine the shanks and cold water; cover and bring to a boil. Add onions, dried vegetables, salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, skimming occasionally, or until meat is very tender.
With a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a bowl. Let cool; when cool enough to handle, remove meat from bones and return to soup kettle. Refrigerate the soup for several hours. Remove the solidified fat. Add the barley, carrots, cabbage and turnip. Heat until simmering. Simmer for 45-60 minutes or until barley is cooked and veggies are tender. Serve piping hot.
Makes 6-8 servings.
Using this recipe, you can have hearty homemade Scotch Broth on the table in about an hour. If you don’t like your food spicy, cut back on the black pepper a bit. You can always add more if it’s too bland for your taste.
Scotch Broth (pressure cooker version)
From Chavich, Cinda: “225 Best Pressure Cooker Recipes,” Robert Rose Inc., Toronto, 2013.
10 mL (2 tsp) vegetable oil
3 stalks celery, diced
1 onion, diced
500 g (1 lb) boneless lamb shoulder or shank, trimmed of fat and finely chopped
2 L (8 cups) chicken stock or cold water
500 mL (2 cups) carrots, cut into small dice
500 mL (2 cups) turnips, cut into small dice
5 mL (1 tsp) freshly ground black pepper
2 mL (1/2 tsp) dried thyme
10 mL (2 tsp) minced garlic
1 bay leaf
250 mL (1 cup) pearl barley
In the pressure cooker, heat oil over medium heat. Add celery and onions; sauté for about 8 minutes or until soft. Add lamb, in batches, and brown on all sides. Return lamb and accumulated juices to cooker. Stir in stock, carrots, turnips, pepper, thyme, garlic and bay leaf. Stir in barley.
Lock the lid in place and bring the cooker up to full pressure over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, just to maintain even pressure, and cook for 22 minutes. Remove from heat and allow pressure to drop naturally.
Season to taste with salt. Discard bay leaf before serving.
Makes 8 servings
Margaret Prouse, a home economist, can be reached by writing her at RR#2, North Wiltshire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.