Given the variability in the size of a sheep's innards (the pluck), the spice quantities are only a rough guide.
You might need more. You might need less. (I've never needed less!)
I haven't tried adding ginger, however I understand it's quite common. This time I included two or three teaspoons of
mild smoked Spanish paprika
and about ¼ teaspoon of cayenne.
Once again I didn't add any (fresh or dried) herbs, though it's a definite consideration.
On the whole, this year I felt I slightly under-seasoned the mixture. And last year I had a touch too much cayenne.
So don't believe a word of my recipes - even if they were
all perfectly edible haggii in the end!
This year's notable education came from my excellent butcher George Bower
who told me how to avoid the haggis bursting while cooking -
absolutely do not
let the cooking water exceed 98°C. He also told me there was no need to simmer the haggis for hours,
as I've been doing in the past - this being a technique for haggis made with uncooked stuffing, unlike mine.
Just bring the haggis pot up to temperature and leave the beast to cool in the water.
I have to say I was slightly dubious about the truncated cooking time but it worked like a charm.
They were all perfectly well cooked and not one of my haggii burst, which has been a persistent problem in the past.
So thanks Mr Bower!
I came across one oddity this year - an actual sheep's stomach!
The story is slightly long and dull; basically I thought I'd try and order the haggis bits from a
decent butcher I've recently discovered
near where I work in Musselburgh,
rather than trekking out to that ever-reliable but distant George Bower
at the crack of dawn.
I placed my order, went the next day to confirm everything would be delivered, then returned a week later to collect the winnings.
Only to discover that the ox bungs (fat intestinal stockings which are now used to wrap the haggis) were unavailable.
Not Aytouns' fault, but a bit of a pisser nevertheless, since it now required a trip to George Bower anyway - the thing I'd been trying to avoid.
Anyhoo, Mr Aytoun did
happen to have some actual sheep's stomachs (the traditional haggis casing)
in the freezer so he offered me them in compensation.
I took them home and defrosted them to have a shufty, and was astonished
at their overall tattiness.
Thick as boot leather and hairy like tripe , they were also full of nodules and holes
- obviously one big hole where the food goes in,
a smaller hole where the poo goes out, but lots of other mysterious orifices where who-knows-what passes through.
I had thought that the stomachs became unavailable due to Foot-And-Mouth disease, or was it Scrapie?
But perhaps they become unavailable simply because they're shit?
I could see how you could
use 'em to make a haggis, but it would be strangely deformed looking thing
with a lot of billowing skirts hanging off it like a badly-stuffed jelly fish.
Not the look I was going for, so I stuck with Mr Bower's thin, smooth, two-foot long ox bungs.
Thanks Mr Bower!
Put the sheep pluck (everything but the suet) into a pot of water and bring to the boil (assuming you have a large enough pot;
otherwise you will have to do this in stages re-using the cooking water in between).
Simmer each component as long as necessary to cook it through - 20 minutes for the kidneys, about half an hour for the liver and heart,
as much as 2 hours for the lungs. Drain, strain and retain the offal stock.
Remove any skin, lumps, veins or mysterious nodules from the liver and kidneys (and discard any rubbery bits you missed as you grate them later).
Cook the barley in two to three times its volume of the stock until tender (about 45 minutes), adding a little salt, pepper and mace seasoning too.
Toast the oatmeal in a large dry frying pan (or in batches) until it smells toasty(!) and takes on a little more colour. Watch you don't burn it.
Pull out the larger capillaries from the lungs and heart and blend them up with enough stock to achieve a smooth paste.
Into a (very
) large bowl:
- Grate the kidney.
- Grate the liver.
- Chop the onion (moderately finely - a ½cm or so dice).
- Mince the garlic.
- Chop the suet.
- Add the cooked barley.
- Add the lung and heart paste.
- Add the cognac.
Moisten the mixture with offal stock until it coheres nicely and clumps together.
Now season this mixture - start with about half your spice mix, stir it in, then fry up a sample and taste.
Adjust seasoning and repeat until you're happy.
Finally stir in the toasted oatmeal, moistening with additional stock if required.
Your haggis stuffing is now ready.
Thoroughly rinse the ox ceca inside and out, then stuff them with the haggis mixture.
You get to choose how large each individual haggis is going to be,
just tie off the sizes you want with a few turns of string, leave a good couple of inches of cecum (for cutting the haggis apart),
tie off again, and fill the next haggis.
I found filling the sock to capacity, then squeezing it out to a bit more than half-full
before tying that section gives a nicely swollen haggis when cooked, but leaves enough room for expansion.
Alternative, leave two or three fingers of empty sock at the end of each packed haggis before tying off,
then squeeze the filling around so its evenly distributed.
An over-stuffed haggis is more likely to burst during cooking.
To cook the haggis bring a large
pot of water to the boil, then turn the heat off.
Lower the raw haggii into the pot, turn the heat on low and gently reheat to 98°C no hotter
(this might take an hour).
Immediately turn off the heat and leave the pot, covered, to completely cool.
Remove the haggii, drain and pat dry.
Your haggii are now cooked and unsplit!
You can keep these haggii (cool and dry
) for a week or two
or freeze them for later.
To serve, simply reheat them, again by immersing in water not more than 98°C (repeating the above process works perfectly),
though you can roast ,
pan-fry, or batter and deep-fry them as you prefer.