Of all the adjectives to describe haggis, versatile is not usually one of them. This most famous of Scottish dishes is made from sheep heart, liver and lungs, and is typically only seen south of the border once a year on Burns Night. Even then, more often than not, it's accompanied almost exclusively by Neeps and Tatties. 'Reliable', 'conventional', and 'unlikely to surprise', would be accurate descriptions for this dish.
So why am I writing about Haggis nearly two months before Burns Night? Well firstly, because St Andrews Day falls this weekend, and secondly, because Macsween of Edinburgh want to change the way we eat haggis. These master haggis-makers have been at the forefront of the haggis industry for 60 years - they were the first to introduce vegetarian haggis and this year have launched limited edition venison and three bird versions. Macsween are on a mission to show us just how versatile haggis can be and have created a recipe book to prove it. Crammed with unlikely yet imaginative dishes - highlights include Haggis Nachos, Haggis Lasagne and Haggis Chinese Pancakes. But is this enough to win us over? The proof of the pudding is, of course, in the eating.
Enter James Ramsden, London-based food writer and supper club chef extraordinaire. He valiantly took on the challenge of cooking up a five courses of Macsween Haggis, served in five different ways, for a group of hungry London diners. And yes this also included dessert - a take on traditional Scottish Cranachan (blended oats, cream, whisky and raspberries) using vegetarian haggis. It could have been a colossal failure - who wants to find haggis lurking in their dessert? But it was, in fact, a triumph and even the skeptics were won over by this rich, creamy dish.
A lot of people dismiss haggis because it's made from offal. If only they'd try it, then they'd see that it's actually pretty tasty stuff. It's not as overpowering as straight up liver or heart and is packed with fibre. It's really easy to cook too - you can boil it in the traditional way or buy the microwavable version which takes little more than a minute. So whether you're a curious haggis skeptic or a hardcore fan like me, don't wait until Burns Night to try some and don't feel obliged to have it in its conventional form - be rebellious and whip up some haggis nachos, then you'll see what I mean.
P.S If you're wondering how on earth James Ramsden put together a 5 course haggis dinner, you can listen to him talking about the dinner here.