My favourite of her books, A Cook’s Tour of Scotland: From Barra to Brora in 120 Recipes, is divided into sections that are dedicated to the many gastronomic foundations for which Scotland is known. This list includes but is not limited to: Venison, Lamb, Salmon, Lobster and Crab, Haddock and Herring, Black Pudding, Kale, Potatoes, Bacon, Seaweed, Oats, Barley, Raspberries, Honey and Cream.
And of course…Haggis.
It is true that haggis is not for everyone. However, it remains the single food tourists seem to be required to sample while they are here. I won’t go into how it’s made, because you can look that up if you are brave enough. I will say however that the trick to enjoying haggis, like with any food, is quality.
Good company always helps as well. Like the North American tradition of cooking a Thanksgiving turkey each autumn, the day on which practically every household in Scotland cooks haggis is 25 January, also known as Robert Burns Night. I lived for a year in the freezing northeast of British Columbia, but come late January, there was a community Burn’s Supper. There was even a piper. True he was the only one in a several hundred mile radius, but it was, after all, the middle of nowhere. Scottish culture is nothing if not far reaching.
Despite the tradition of serving Scotland’s national dish with “neeps and tatties” (ie: turnips and potatoes), there is no culinary law requiring you to stick with these as side dishes. One of the best meals I’ve ever had was a breast of chicken stuffed with haggis, in a whisky cream sauce. I have also seen haggis done in fantastic little crunchy filo parcels.
One of my most beloved of Lawrence’s recipes is that for Haggis Lasagne. In fact, I have only just finished making enough Haggis Lasagne for 20 people, which I will take to work with me tomorrow for my colleagues to devour.
As usual, one must start with a haggis. I used Simon Howie’s, as it’s lovely and dark and has a good peppery flavour.
Like many of Lawrence’s recipes, this one is very simple and does not call for many ingredients. The haggis is cooked according to directions (I wrapped mine in foil and boiled it for 45 minutes), then cut open and some is crumbled on the bottom of a buttered baking dish. The haggis and lasagne are layered, along with a single layer of cut tomatoes.
A final layer of haggis and lasagne, then the whole thing is drowned in a white sauce made with butter, flour and milk. Finally, it is sprinkled with parmesan and drizzled with olive oil and baked for an hour. Ta-da:
If you haven’t realized already, I should note that as with many Scottish foods, it does feel a bit like a heart attack on a plate. Best eaten occasionally, with a big salad.
Perhaps I could have chosen a different recipe from Sue’s book. The Shortbread Toffee Crumble Ice Cream Bars tend to catch people’s attention. Then there are two versions of Orkney Fudge Cheesecake. Or Porridge Scones with Cream and Brown Sugar.
All the same, one lucky person can try them all, as I have a copy of A Cook’s Tour of Scotland to give away!
This wonderful book is perfect for anyone who not only loves to cook, but also enjoys hearing the stories behind a nation’s favourite foods. There are some beautiful old black and white photos from the author’s childhood as well (including a charming shot of her holding two ice cream cones and grinning like there is no tomorrow).
If you would like to be included in this draw, just leave a comment below. Yes, I do airmail! If you don’t have a blog to link to but would still like to enter, please email me your name to firstname.lastname@example.org and include “Mmmm…haggis” in the subject line. The only person not eligible for this month’s giveaway is last month’s winner (sorry, Marcheline! Hope you are enjoying your whisky treats).
I’ll leave this open for a week, and make the deadline to get your name in Sunday 19 July. On the Monday I’ll ask my beloved Scotsman to fish out the name from the hat, after which I shall contact the winner to get address details. Easy peasy, lemon Squeezy!
Until then, happy cooking…
**This giveaway has now ended. Congratulations Pyzahn for winning the cookbook.***