Article by Joanna Sarah-Freedman
Ever wondered how to cook haggis? Or what haggis tastes like?
Well, wonder no more, because we’ve roped in the creme de la creme of haggis experts to give you the DL.
It may be beloved across Scotland, but there are many who don’t have the foggiest about the local delicacy, and plenty of others who believe the myths around it (no, it’s not a mythical Scottish animal, for one).
Wanna learn about Scottish national dish, haggis? (Credit: Getty)
So, we’ve recruited Carol Deeney, the Scottish-born founder of east London’s Deeney’s cafe – purveyor of the dreamiest haggis toasties.
Pondering what to serve with haggis? How long to cook haggis for or whether it’ll work in the air fryer? Well, Carol is on hand to answer all your burning questions.
What is haggis? What’s in it?
“Haggis is a traditional savoury Scottish pudding, which is made of a mix of lamb offal, oatmeal and spices – much like your black pudding and white pudding, but it's made with the innards of a lamb.
“It’s traditional that it should be [made from] lung, heart and liver, but it's up to the individual butcher how to sort the proportions of everything, depending on the flavour profile they’re after.
“There’s a lot of misconceptions about haggis. A lot of people think it’s brain, but it isn’t!
Haggis is commonly served on Burns Night (Credit: Getty)
“People think that you actually eat the stomach, too, and don’t know that it’s what you stuff the haggis into, much like you would use an intestine for the casing of a sausage.
“We use the stomach as a sort of cooking vessel. So, like boil-in-the-bag, often you cook it in the stomach, and then you slice it open when it's on the serving plate. If it’s cooked well it oozes out.”
What does haggis taste like?
“Haggis is basically a spiced lamb sausage, but is also kind of like stuffing because of the thicker, oaty texture.
“There’s obviously a very meaty flavour from the offal and you’ll usually find black pepper, nutmeg and mace in there, so it's got a sort of fiery warmth to it. It’s delicious!”
What to serve with haggis
1) Haggis, neeps and tatties
Haggis is most traditionally eaten with neeps and tatties (Credit: Getty)
“Haggis is traditionally served as a main dish with neeps and tatties, which is mashed turnips and mashed potato in equal parts.
“People furnish it with a whiskey cream sauce or gravy.
“However, the best thing about haggis is it's a well seasoned meat, so it can be used as a substitute for meat and almost any dish, beyond neeps and tatties.”
2) Cheesy haggis toasties
Deeney's specialise in cheesy haggis toasties (Credit: Deeney's)
“We put it with cheese in a toastie at Deeney’s and it is a great way to get people trying haggis in a more approachable way.
“Complementary flavours work, like cheese with the fatty meat. It suddenly becomes almost like a cheeseburger. It just elevates it!”
Listing off more ideas for what to have with haggis, Carol suggests you can also use it as the meaty element in:
3) Haggis lasagna
4) Haggis pizza
5) Haggis samosas
6) Haggis pakoras
7) Haggis sausage rolls
8) Haggis with a fry up
Really, though, the list is endless!
Haggis fry ups are also available at Deeney's (Credit: Deeney's)
“Haggis works with contrasting flavours, too.
“So, for instance, if you're doing it deep-fried in batter, it’s gonna work really well with a fiery chilli sauce or a hot honey glaze, which are sort of the opposite of the warm spice and the fat.
“You’d get that heat and sweetness from a sticky, chilli marinade.
“It's a really versatile meat product. You can pretty much substitute it in anything!”
How do you cook haggis (and how long to cook haggis)?
“Haggis is already technically cooked when you buy it at the butcher, and it comes prepared and seasoned, with its own packaging - the stomach. So, you're basically just heating it up."
There are a few ways to go when thinking about how to cook a haggis.
So, let’s get into it.
How to cook haggis in the microwave
“The microwave is the best way to cook haggis – it keeps the moisture and it's really quick.
“Literally just [remove the packaging and casing, slice into small pieces] and put it in a microwavable container and heat it on high for a few minutes."
How to boil haggis
“If you have the traditional one pounder that you want to cook in the stomach, you can just gently boil that in hot water.
“It should take about 20 minutes on the hob and it’s as easy as that!"
How to cook haggis in the oven
“You need to wrap it in two layers of foil, add a small bit water in your dish and then put it in the oven for about an hour, depending on the size.
“We do that if there’s a big Burns Night event and we've got to do the chieftain which is the 2.5 kilo ceremonial haggis."
How do you know when haggis is cooked?
“Because of the beef fat, when you buy the haggis and it's from the fridge it's quite solid.
“What you're waiting for is for that to melt and become pliable, and easy to mash and move."
Can you fry haggis?
“Yes! We cook it on a flatbed grill at Deeney's, so we basically fry it off.
“We sort of chop it all up and get it all hot on the griddle which is great for our toasties. It takes about ten minutes.
“A lot of people have it in their fry up, so after doing bacon and eggs they just fry it off, like you would black pudding."
How to cook haggis in an air fryer
“It’s the same as frying it! Treat it like a sausage and just bring it up to temperature.
"If you wanted to batter it and then put it in an air fryer that would work really nicely, too.
“As for how long [to cook haggis in an air fryer], it depends on the size of portions, and if you're doing slices or balls, but I reckon 10 to 15 minutes is a good bet.”
Can you cook haggis in a slow cooker?
“You wouldn’t cook a traditional haggis in a slow cooker, but I think you could substitute it in a dish like any other meat product, if the recipe calls for for it.
“So, it could go in a stew or something like that, but it's not going to improve texture with a slow cooker. You’d just be heating it up with the other ingredients in your dish.”
Traditionally haggis is cooked in a lamb's stomach (Credit: Getty)
What are the biggest mistakes people make when they cook haggis?
"You don't need to worry about undercooking a haggis as it's already cooked. However, there are a few mistakes people make..."
1) Losing moisture in your haggis
“One issue would be if you overcooked your haggis and you made it really crispy because it should be a really moist and succulent – you don't want it to be like crispy or dried.
“The reason I say microwave and boil is best is because essentially it's just heating up but still retaining the moisture.
“You don't really want to lose any of the fat because that's what bound it together in the first place, and that's what's gonna give you that extra flavour and richness!
"That’s the danger of frying it - you have to really keep an eye on it. Try not to cook a really big, bulky amount so that you've got to have it in the frying oil for too long - do the size of a table tennis ball at a time.
“If you do fry, you could also try either a tempura or just a light flavoured batter.
“That means you only need to have it in the frying oil for three minutes and you've got the crispness and outside whilst keeping the moisture and the richness."
Make sure not to dry your Haggis out (Credit: Getty)
2) The haggis stomach bursting
“Be careful when boiling your haggis because it can burst, and then it’s a disaster because you just end up with haggis broth.
“To avoid this, you have to make sure that you've got a good quality haggis in a really good stomach that's definitely not got any holes in it.”
Can you reheat haggis?
“This is a tricky one because on the packaging it would say do not reheat – you should probably listen to that!
"But, saying that, it's quite a hardy meat and I think if you reheat it to the correct temperature, it can be enjoyed.
“If you're putting it into like a haggis toastie the next day, I don't think you're gonna regret it!”
Can you freeze haggis?
“You can freeze haggis before cooking. It's really good product to have in the freezer.
“It’ll last like a standard meat product, so, three months – or more if not frostbitten!”
Wondering where to buy haggis?
If you're pondering 'where can I buy haggis near me?,' Carol has some advice.
In short? It all depends what you're looking for.
Macsween is the most popular butcher to buy haggis from (Credit: Getty)
1) Macsween’s butchers
“The one you see a lot, which is the one that we use at Deeney’s, is Macsween's of Edinburgh.
“They champion themselves as the guardians of this national dish. They've been doing it for long time, very consistently, selling it nationally and internationally.
“They also have the vegetarian version of haggis which is very popular and really well mired for its consistency and flavour profile.”
2) Your local butcher
“Every butcher does their own and they would probably say that theirs is the best!
“So, I would speak to you local butcher and have a taste see what they put in it. See what you like – perhaps heavier on the liver or more lung.
“For instance, Macsween has mostly lamb lung, so it's a much milder flavour, whereas with others you get a much richer, inky taste.”
3) Some UK supermarkets
“Waitrose and Sainsbury's normally always have haggis in stock, especially over Burns Night, and it's good to see that they champion it as a date in the diary in England as well!”
Here's a few links to supermarkets stocking it:
Sainsbury's - 500g for £3
Ocado - 500g for £3
Waitrose - 500g for £3.28 (they also sell larger traditional haggis, ranging from £11.25 to £17.30)
Ask your local butcher what he puts in his haggis (Credit: Getty)
What would you say to haggis naysayers?
“You couldn't tell me which part of the animal is in your sausage, so enjoy the flavour and the textures and the spices and don't overthink it,” Carol explains.
“Haggis is actually very approachable, and we've almost got an almost 100 percent conversion rate once customers try it.
“My three year old eats haggis, so when a 40 year old man says he's too squeamish, I tell them that!”
Featured image: Deeney's/ James Byrne