I love Burns’ Night. Not only is it a welcome night of revelry in the grey gloom of January, it’s an excuse to enjoy the delights of haggis (and mash). Seen as plain food by some, I associate it with excitement and glamour thanks to childhood memories of our parents hosting Burns’ Suppers for friends. They’d dress up, the table would get laid with the good plates and the house would be full of laughter and clinking glasses and everyone having a good time. That association and the comedy flying haggis that sat on the mantlepiece all year round has given me a huge soft spot for the humble haggis.
I do try and eat it each January, but I’ve never cooked it for myself before as its usually too much for one person and I feel I’d be treading on Scottish toes to host a supper myself. So imagine my glee when on a recent trip to Walters Butchers in Herne Hill I espied a teeny tiny perfectly portioned haggis for sale. Feeling slightly in need of indulgence since it’s a dry January, I brought it home and plotted doing something slightly different to the normal haggis, neeps and tatties.
And unsurprisingly, I got the urge to stuff something with the haggis. But since I’ve already tried squid and cabbage leaves and tomatoes and a marrow and probably more I’ve forgotten, it seemed like I’d run out of things to stuff. Until I espied a big bag of onions in the farmers’ market. I’ve heard of such things as a stuffed onion but never eaten them. I decided they would be a good challenge.
And a challenge they certainly were. It took quite a lot of Googling to find the best way to hollow these out to get the stuffing in. Disinclined to buy a melon baller for Smitten Kitchen‘s suggestion, I settled on this one from Abel and Cole and boiled the onions first until fairly soft. This seemed easier until I realised that the layered nature of onions means they hold their heat for ages and that I needed to don some rubber gloves to handle them. But even with those it’s hard to get a good grip on the middle of the onions thanks to the sticky sap cooked onions exude and I started to regret not splashing out on the melon baller. But soon enough I had four largish onions hollowed out and awaiting a good stuffing.
While I was onion-wrangling, I had wrapped the haggis in foil and then popped it in the oven to bake for about 25 minutes and then taken it out to cool slightly so I could handle it more easily. I has also soaked some porcini for the same length of time to add some earthiness to the whole stuffing.
You could just stuff the onions with pure haggis is you’ve got one that is well enough seasoned, but I wanted the stuffing a bit lighter so I blitzed two black pepper Ryvita, the centre of one onion and the porcini mushrooms and then mixed it with about half the whole haggis before filling the onions up well. I put a little bit of chicken stock in the bottom of the dish and wrapped it with foil and baked the the onions for about 15 minutes at 180℃ as you want the onions to be meltingly soft. If you wanted to add a bit of crumbly Lancashire cheese and breadcrumbs do it about 10 minutes before the end and take the foil off to crisp it all up.
In the meantime I made a rosti with grated potato and turnip as frankly tatties and neeps really are the best bedfellows for haggis. Boil your potatoes for exactly 7 minutes before grating to get the maximum stickiness to hold the rosti together properly as the turnip will break it up a little bit. Then cook it until golden on both sides. I used a bit of goose fat, but butter is brilliant for getting that sweet caramelised taste. I also reduced down some butter, whisky and stock to make some little drops of sticky sauce to perk the plate up nicely.
And wow! The flavours combined beautifully. The sweet onion worked well with the creamy peppery haggis and the whisky gave it a little kick. It was one of the nicest haggis I’ve ever eaten, strongly spiced, rich, almost buttery with oats and served in a proper stomach rather than a crinkly plastic casing. And such good value. It cost me a shade over £3 and I got three good sized meals out of it. A couple of haggis sceptics also said they’d be more likely to eat it if it were served up this way, so I’m filing this one away as a total win for the chieftain o’the pudding race.*
*In fact after writing this I went back and bought another haggis the same day from Walters so I could make this again before next year!