Haggis Q&A

Haggis Q&A


So exactly what is a haggis?

A simple dish using the pluck of an animal; lungs, heart, liver, to which is added suet or fat, oatmeal, onions and a little stock and seasoning, filled into some sort of casing or skin.


How is haggis made?

The meat is cooked, then minced (ground) with the onions and mixed with the suet, oatmeal, some of the stock and the seasoning (salt, pepper, etc.)  

The mixture, whilst hot, is then filled into a casing, which for a traditional haggis would be natural skins (ox intestine). It is formed to the right size, and then finally cooked again to allow the oatmeal to swell.


If haggis is already cooked, does it just need to be reheated?

Yes, exactly so, but it needs to be piping hot before serving

Can haggis be frozen?

Yes, haggis freezes well. In a vacuum bag it can go directly into the freezer, otherwise, wrap in cling filmand bag before putting in the freezer. No freezer should be without one!


Could you tell me something of the history of the haggis?


No one knows its exact origins, but it would be true to say that similar dish can be seen throughout the world which use the offal meats, and turn them into a tasty dish adding seasonings and a grain or rice. The most likely origin is from Scandinavia, where they have similar type dish. Perhaps the Vikings brought the idea to Scotland.

What we do know is that there is a Swedish dish called “Polsa” which is similar, but uses barley rather than oatmeal.


The haggis certainly became well established in the Scottish culinary scene as an every day staple, but it wasn’t just for the peasant classes.


In 18 th century Scotland, one writer in describing the town life of the well-to-do in Glasgow, wrote: “Men of letters, doctors, and merchants were allured to the tavern for a banquet of hen broth, black beans, a haggis, a crab pie, with ample punch”.

Quite a feast!


In 1826, Meg Dodds produced “The Cooks & Housewife’s Manual” .

She was the landlady of the Cleikum Inn, in St. Ronans, near Peebles, where the Cleikum Club” met, one of the many dining clubs which flourished at the time.  Sir Walter Scott was among the founders, and its members celebrated the national literature and the national spirit with a special interest in old Scots customs.


A lot of mystery surrounds Mistress Dodds but what is clear is that the Cleikum Club was amongst the first to organise a Burns Night.


Meg included haggis in her suggested bill of fare for “St Andrews Day”, Burns Clubs, or other National Dinners. Her book gives the exact recipe by which the prize haggis was prepared at the famous Competition of Haggises, held in Edinburgh, when the Cleikum Haggis carried the stakes.


“Sheeps pluck and paunch, beef suet, onions, pepper, salt, cayenne, lemon, or vinegar”. A genuine Scotch Haggis, is how the writer describes this haggis, and goes on to say: “The lemon and cayenne may be omitted and instead a little beef gravy or broth in which the meat has been cooked can be added”.

This, in fact, describes the haggis in its simplest form today.


Now we go really upmarket:

“A finer haggis is made by substituting sheep tongues and kidney for most of the lights” (lungs) Meg Dodds second recipe for “Haggis Royal” includes leg of mutton, mutton suet, beef marrow, oatmeal, anchovies, parsley, lemon, pepper, cayenne, eggs, and red wine. 

This is far removed from the simple cottage fare, and is a prosperous Edinburgh version of “Let them eat cake”


Others I have read about include currants, raisins etc.


Information taken from Clarissa Dickson Wright’s little book on haggis.