I may have mentioned before that on my father’s side, I am equally blessed and cursed with a Scots-Irish heritage; exploring the cuisine from those particular parts of the world were part of the reason I grew to love cooking. Haggis is a favorite dish of mine, and when I am able to, I get some from W. A. Bean & Sons right here in Bangor. When I am not able, or when I am feeling particularly ambitious, I make my own. Sort of. Haggis is made in the stomach of a sheep, from its heart, liver, and traditionally, pluck (the lungs and esophagus, which are unobtainable in the United States) mixed with steel-cut oats and spices. While most people are turned off by the ingredients alone, I love it.
Sheep offal, however, is incredibly difficult to find, and being a resourceful and frugal sort, due in no small part to my Scottish heritage, I make my own version, based on Alton Brown’s recipe, using beef parts. I also wrap mine up in cheesecloth, rather than a stomach. I first tried haggis at the Maine Highland Games with my father, in the form of haggis dogs, and fell instantly in love with the dish. The Games were also where I discovered meat pies, another traditional Scottish food.
There are several kinds of meat pies, from Forfar bridies to Scotch pies, and while I’m still working on perfecting my bridies, I’ve struck upon a winning recipe for Scotch pies that is always a hit at my house, although Ian prefers an oil-based crust over the traditional lard crust. Both the pies and the haggis are greatly improved by the addition of HP sauce, which can be found among the British imports at the grocery store, or Heinz 57 sauce — which can be easily substituted for by Hannaford’s Golden Steak Sauce, which is what I personally have on-hand at the moment. They’re also complemented well by the accompaniment of ‘bashed neeps and tatties’ — or mashed turnips and potatoes.
Finally, as I begin to gear up for maple season — the real maple season, not the part of autumn where people make things maple because the leaves are falling, but the season when the tapping of maple trees and the boiling down of their sap into syrup happens — and Maine Maple Sunday, I offer you a Maine version of a Scottish candy: tablet. Tablet is very sweet, with a texture sort of like a more granular fudge, and though I don’t typically go for sweets, it won’t last long in my home anytime I make it, because a piece will mysteriously disappear every time I walk past the plate.
Fia’s Frugal Haggis
- 1 lb beef heart, boiled and minced
- 1-2 lb beef liver, boiled and minced
- 1/2 lb fresh suet, minced
- 1 c steel-cut oats
- 1 large onion, finely minced
- 4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 1 tsp cayenne
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp cloves
- 1 c beef broth
Mix all ingredients together and wrap with several layers of cheesecloth, tightly but not too tightly, because the oatmeal will expand as it cooks. Place in boiling water to cover. Simmer for 3 hours, uncovered, adding more water as needed to maintain water level. Serve with bashed neeps and tatties (turnip and potatoes, respectively) and a finger or two of a decent Scotch whiskey (optional.)
- 1 lb ground lamb
- 1 tsp Worchestershire sauce
- 1 small onion, grated
- 1 c oatmeal (I use steel cut oats)
- 1/2 c beef broth
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 4 c. flour
- 1 c. water
- 1/2 c lard
Preheat oven to 250°F. For crust, bring water and lard to a boil and simmer until lard is melted. Put flour in a bowl, make a well in the middle, and add water & lard. Mix until it forms a ball, divide into 1/3 and 2/3. Press 2/3 into 8 small ramekins; reserving 1/3 for top crust. Mix all filling ingredients, divide and fill crusts. Top with reserved crust, sealing edges well. Cut a slit or a hole in the top crust, and brush with a beaten egg. Place ramekins on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes at 250°F, then raise the oven temperature to 350°F for 15 minutes longer.
- 1 1/2 lb. white sugar
- 1/2 lb maple sugar
- 1 stick butter
- 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 c whole milk
- 1/2 c heavy cream
In a large stock pot, melt together sugars, butter, milk and cream. Mix well as it boils down, careful to keep crystals from forming on your spoon or the sides of the pan.When the sugar is completely dissolved, add the sweetened condensed milk. Boil until it is a dark golden brown and reaches the firm end of the “soft ball” stage — or about 240°F on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and stir for about 10 minutes or until it thickens, becomes less glossy, and crystallization begins. If you stir it too long, it will be too crystallized. Pour into a greased 8×13 pan and allow to cool for several hours before cutting or scoring for breaking later.
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