Country Traditions

November 2, 2010

How to make your own haggis | Life and style |

Filed under: family, farming, herbs, recipes, wisdom — Tags: , , , , , , , — dmacc502 @ 8:07 am

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How to make your own haggis | Life and style |

via How to make your own haggis | Life and style | step by step slideshow.

Wash the pluck and simmer it gently in unsalted water until it’s tender – usually about and hour and a half. Let it cool overnight in its own cooking liquid. Chop the heart and lungs finely – I used a mezzaluna but a food processor will do the job if pulsed gently. Remember that you’re looking for a gravelly texture, not pate. Grate the liver – a weird and strangely satisfying sensation.

Toast the oatmeal for a few minutes in a medium oven while chopping the onions. Season the meat with salt, coarse ground white pepper, sage, thyme, rosemary and savory. There’s no need to go overboard here – particularly with the pepper. This isn’t, after all, an English sausage. Add the onions, the oatmeal, the suet and a pint or so of the liquid in which the pluck was poached. The mix should be moist but not enough to hold together as a single mass.

The ox bung will have been thoroughly cleaned and salted so rinse it inside and out with clear water and pat it dry with a kitchen towel. Spooning the stuffing into the bung until it’s half full; I wanted to make two so I stopped early and cut off the bung short. Expel any air left in the casing, tie the opening tightly with several turns of butcher’s string and work the filling back out into the full length of the casing. The stuffing will expand in cooking as the oatmeal absorbs the fat and meat juices. The most important trick is to allow space for this expansion whilst preventing any air bubbles which might turn the entire thing into a meat-based Hindenberg disaster.

Lower the haggis into gently simmering water. The casing will contract and the stuffing will swell. Use a skewer to pierce and release any trapped air. Remember that cooking time is based on thickness not mass; the long sausage shape of the bung means that this one took just over an hour and a half to cook. Lift out onto a plate and pat dry.

What’s the best British sausage?

After an upsetting childhood experience, Jeremy Lee of theBlueprint Café could never find unalloyed joy in British bangers. Is there a sausage which might restore his faith?

• Jeremy Lee’s favourite sausages

5 types of sausageFive types of British sausage. Photograph: Alamy

Ah, the British banger. Growing up with sausages that gave my brother and me severe headaches means I still struggle to enjoy the things today. On occasion my parents cooked that shame of convenience, mini skinless sausages. My brother and I, in a rare moment of bonding, wept at the prospect of eating these abominations, both craving a proper sausage. We were ignored until a radio programme exposed the hideous reality that some cheap sausages were pumped so full of unsavoury preservatives and additives they were likely to upset your stomach and give you a headache. Our parents saw the light; we never saw the dreadful wee things again.

My father restored our faith in the banger now and again by making a fine sausage stew accompanied by a great heap of mashed potato and a healthy dollop of Dijon mustard. It was delicious and there was no suspicion of a little white polystyrene tray stuffed in the bin. But the earlier memories, made at a formative time, have never really left me.

I know it is unfair to damn an entire business on one little episode in a generally very happily nurtured childhood but my feelings on the subject are strong enough to have got me into trouble once or twice. I was once asked to sit on a judging panel for sausages. Within minutes I was teetering on the verge of banishment for being disruptive and, well, downright rude. Eminent fellow panellists shuffled their feet as I poured vitriol on the defenceless sausages, but so many of the offerings masquerading as the very best of this mythical food, the British Banger, are just terrible. It upsets me. It is a sadness that when craving a sausage or two nowadays, I rarely set off in search because I have found most of what is on offer fairly duff, annoyingly cheap, and tasting so.

The singular addition of glamour such as exotic or surprising ingredients to jazz up a sausage is only makes for more unpleasant eating. Why is there such a dazzling array of new flavours of sausage? Bad enough the chicken tikka masala pizza, but in a sausage? Likewise, ham and pineapple, beef and sweet chilli, Jamaican jerk and chicken and sun-dried tomato – abominations all. Who among us eats these?

The recipe for a great sausage could not be more simple. Coarsely ground pork, salt and pepper and scrupulously cleaned intestine. Perhaps a few little pieces of chopped back fat for the trencherman. A sausage as God intended will cook beautifully, eating well unaccompanied; will braise beautifully in a pan of lentils; will happily tackle a great pot of borlotti or haricot beans enlivened with a pinch of chilli; it will revel in a good roll with a smear of mustard. Should the use of herbs be required, a small and judicious pinch of thyme could well be a benefit to a dish lacking that last little something. But the holus bolus piling in of cheap dried herbs into the sausage itself which repeat on you for days afterwards leaves me bewildered. Keep it simple. The dread introduction of inventive jolly and cheer is most unwelcome. Dour is the order of the day.

So I still remain bothered and unconvinced by the banger to this day. I can think of no more appealing sight than a butcher behind a great tray of sausages in proper casings made from pigs raised by a farmer he knows well, but these need seeking out. Richard Vaughan of Pedigree Meats makes a pleasant chipolata. I am fortunate indeed to have The Ginger Pig, who sell a Toulouse sausage, just round the corner in Victoria Park, and there are other sausages worth tracking down. But where to find the British banger to equal? You need Sherlock Holmes for that game.



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