Simon Howie - Haggis
By: Simon Howie
Haggis - "Great chieftain o the pudding race" wrote Robbie Burns about the national dish of Scotland.
Haggis consumption peaks at the end of January with the Burns Night celebrations on 25 January. If you have never tried this Scottish delicacy there is a good range available and it actually pretty good - see our Haggis Guide for more information.
Haggis has a PR problem, enterprising butcher Simon Howie has tried to address this and bring haggis to a wider audience by packaging it in a modern foil pouch with good instructions and appetising pictures. They make around 2,000 kilo of Haggis per week but this rises to a massive 125,000 per week around Burns Night. Some are made in the traditional sheeps stomach but most are made in a plastic sleeve (not a problem as this is discarded after cooking).
They insist that the best haggis is made with lamb, the ingredients list lambs lungs, oatmeal, dried onions, barley, beef fat, beef liver, beef heart and seasoning.
This does not sound too good, in the flesh (so to speak) the haggis is unusually dark, moist and very, very peppery (an excuse for some more Whiskey). There is more meat and less oats then most Haggis, this probably makes it darker.
The Scotsman recently tested 6 Haggis and only gave Simon Howie a lowly 1 out of 5 (the winner was Crombies of Edinburgh and Macsween scored highly). Perphaps a bit harsh but it does not compare to Macsween Haggis I ate this weekend.
They recently won the title of Best Butchers Shop in Britain awarded by the Meats Trade Journal. They are based in Perthshire but sell Haggis via supermarkets and throughout the year and throughout the country (we brought ours in a Sainsburys in Reading).
I would try to steam or bake it, like a Christmas pudding. Haggis does taste better cooked this way.
Top marks for the packaging and wide distribution but given a choice I would buy a Macsween from Waitrose.