Friday, January 21, 2011

Fear not, the haggis

Robbie Burns day is Tuesday, January 25. And you know what that means, don’t you? Scottish poetry and peaty tipples and that famous Scottish take on stuffed derma -- haggis!

Executive Chef David Garcelon has created Haggis Sliders to celebrate the beloved poet Robbie Burns and his Scottish heritage (just when you thought the slider had jumped the shark with President’s Choice's recipe for Korean BBQ Angus Sliders) the Haggis Sliders will be available in The Library Bar at Toronto’s Fairmont Royal York and can be paired with one of 25 varieties of Scotch or 22 types of beer including their exclusive rooftop honey beer, the Royal Stinger.

Here’s the problem: I’ve always wanted to try haggis, yet up to now the opportunity had always eluded me. And since I have a prior engagement on the eve of Robbie Burns day, it looked like another year was going to go by without me tasting this traditional dish.

But not so fast. My friend Melanie happens to be the head PR gal at the Royal York, and she had some sliders sent to my house today so that I could finally cross haggis off of my life to-do list. (And that’s what makes Melanie so awesome.) And you know what happened? I ate them. And you know what? Very delicious offal! The taste is not unlike regular beef sliders, albeit with a softer bite, a touch of allspice and a minerally, livery undercurrent. The sesame brioche buns, tomato chutney, crispy onions, a touch of mayo and pickled onion and gherkin garnishes are all thoughtful and work well in helping the haggis go down.

If you can’t make your way to the Library Bar on Tuesday and don’t mind going to the butcher to load up on gobs of innards and suet, here’s the Royal York’s haggis recipe. Be sure to accompany it with a glass of neat Scotch whisky and a heart full of good cheer.

The Royal York’s Robbie Burns Day sliders and pairings are available from 12pm through to 1:00 a.m. on Tuesday January 25, 2011. Also, click here for more haggis happenings around Toronto.

Traditional Haggis


1 large sausage casing

5 cups dry coarse or steel cut oatmeal

1 lb. (0.5 kg) chopped suet

1 lb. (0.5 kg) lamb or venison liver, braised then minced

2 cups beef or lamb stock

Lamb liver and kidney, boiled and minced

1 large chopped onion

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp. allspice

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper


1. Toast oatmeal slowly until crisp. Mix all ingredients (except stomach bag) together. Add stock.

2. Fill bag to just over half full, press out air, and tie-up securely. Have ready a large pot of boiling water. Prick the haggis all over with a large pin so it doesn't burst. Simmer slowly for 3-4 hours.

3. Serve with “neeps an tatties”, a traditional Scottish dish that combines mashed potatoes and swede turnips with chives, butter or drippings, and salt and pepper.

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