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This issue: Haggis - A Celebration of Scottish Pâté

Previous issue:  Veal - The Greener (and Rosier) Side
Upcoming issues:  Olive Oil, Bread, Spices, and more

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A Celebration of Scottish Pâté


Stomachs churn and eyebrows rise when the word “haggis” is mentioned. It doesn’t have to be that way; in fact, it shouldn’t. As the title suggests, we consider haggis to be a pâté and a good haggis ranks among the best regional pâtés. To top it all off, haggis is unique in that it is widely celebrated annually on Robert Burns Day, January 25. Let’s delve into the details of haggis with the goal of making haggis a bit more palatable… perhaps convincing you to join the Scots this coming Monday in celebration.


Haggis, like many organ based dishes was originally created as a cheap way to feed citizens living below the poverty line. It is quite healthy and packed with protein and nutrients. Sheep or lamb lungs, liver, heart and kidney were easy to acquire and very inexpensive in ancient Scotland, and formed the base for the first haggis. Grains are typically added - the most common being oats, but barley and other grains may be used as well as additional fat (beef, sheep or pork). Traditionally to prepare haggis, the organs, oats and seasoning are packed into an animal’s stomach and simmered in stock for several hours.


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The Healthy Butcher’s resident Haggis Master is Paul Bradshaw, the Head Butcher at our Queen St. store (his Haggis is available at all three of our stores of course). Toronto-born with Scottish roots, Paul learned the art of Haggis-making from Haggis Master Mike Dorward (multiple winner of the European Haggis Competition) in the town of Alyth, Scotland. Paul uses lamb lungs, hearts, kidneys and livers as the base, and then adds Berkshire pork fat, onions and toasted steel cut oats for texture.

Paul Bradshaw Making Haggis The spices are a fairly simple blend of sage, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Instead of a stomach to pack everything into, Paul uses a beef or canvas casing and simmers it slowly at a low temperature. Paul says “the secret to good haggis comes more in the method of making it rather than the exact spice mixture.” After Paul’s encounter with Mike Dorward, Paul spent about two years perfecting his haggis recipe… personally I believe Paul’s haggis to be the world’s best (them’s fighting words!). It truly is delicious, with a nutty texture and savoury flavour. It has become so popular that Paul now makes and sells his haggis year-round. Last year, Paul, handmade and sold over 200lbs of Haggis in the month of January, and every ounce received raving reviews! This year, the target is 350lbs to set a new record in the Healthy Butcher Glasgow Book of Records.

Haggis is widely referred to as the national dish of Scotland, immortalized by the poet Robert Burns (25 January 175921 July 1796) in his poem Address to a Haggis (see below).  Robert Burns, also known as Rabbie Burns, Scotland's favourite son, the Ploughman Poet, and in Scotland as simply The Bard, is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland, and is celebrated worldwide.  Burns is the best known of the poets who have written in the Scots language.  On his birthday every year, Scots celebrate the poet with a traditional dinner of haggis served with “neeps and tatties” (meaning rutabaga or yellow turnip and potatoes, boiled and mashed separately) and a “dram” (a glass of Scotch of course!).  The Scotch part is probably the real cause for unending happiness on Burns Day.

Of course Scots don’t limit themselves to their national cuisine once a year; haggis is consumed year-round, swallowed piping hot from street vendors, or purchased frozen from grocery stores. Now, we should mention that there is proof that Haggis is much older than the nation of Scotland. For one, the Brits claimed to have created Haggis, to which most Scots reply “what’s next, did they invent golf and develop whisky as well?” There’s also evidence that suggests the Greeks and Romans both ate a version of haggis. As far as The Healthy Butcher is concerned, haggis is as Scottish as a dish gets. The Healthy Butcher's Haggis

Life doesn’t provide nearly enough opportunities to celebrate, so take the time to celebrate Robert Burns Day this coming Monday. Be sure to print out Robert Burns’ poem, recite it at the top of your lungs, and follow it up with a bite of quality haggis and a dram of single malt.

Address to a Haggis
by Robert Burns

Original text

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin'-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak yer place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o' a grace
As lang's my airm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o need,
While thro your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dicht,
An cut you up wi ready slicht,
Trenching your gushing entrails bricht,
Like onie ditch;
And then, Oh what a glorious sicht,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive:
Deil tak the hindmaist, on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
'Bethankit' hums.

Is there that ower his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect scunner,
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him ower his trash,
As feckless as a wither'd rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit:
Thro bloody flood or field to dash,
Oh how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his wallie nieve a blade,
He'll make it whissle;
An legs an arms, an heads will sned,
Like taps o thrissle.

Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But, if Ye wish her gratefu prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!
Idiomatic translation

Nice seeing your honest, chubby face,
Great chieftain of the sausage race!
Above them all you take your place,
Belly, tripe, or links:
Well are you worthy of a grace
As long as my arm.

The groaning platter there you fill,
Your buttocks like a distant hill,
Your pin would help to mend a mill
In time of need,
While through your pores the dews distill
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour sharpen,
And cut you up with practiced skill,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like any ditch;
And then, Oh what a glorious sight,
Warm-steaming, rich!

Then, spoon for spoon, they stretch and strive:
Devil take the hindmost, on they drive,
'Til all their well-swollen bellies soon
Are tight as drums;
Then old Master, most likely to burst,
'Thanks Be' hums.

Is there one, that over his French ragout,
Or olio that would give pause to a sow,
Or fricassee that would make her spew
With perfect loathing,
Looks down with sneering, scornful view
On such a dinner?

Poor devil! See him over his trash,
As feeble as a withered rush,
His spindly leg a good whip-lash,
His fist a nit:
Through bloody flood or field to dash,
Oh how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his sturdy fist a blade,
He'll make it whistle;
And legs and arms, and heads will cut,
Like tops of thistle.

You Pow'rs, that make mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill of fare,
Old Scotland wants no watery ware
That slops in bowls:
But, if You wish her grateful prayer,
Give her a Haggis!



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