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Chris Berry takes a wee dram of a look at the history and tradition of haggis


There’s probably no better time to claim a family link to Scotland than January 25 when Burns Night takes place in celebration of Robert Burns, more commonly referred to as Robbie or Rabbie, the land of the thistle’s national poet.


The date has become known the world over as a festive occasion with the haggis as its centrepiece often piped in by a bagpiper while all guests stand as a Burns tune is played followed by the recitation of the poet’s ode Address to a Haggis.


Handmade Haggis is Farmison & Co’s tartan-based culinary delight featuring mouth-watering lamb that is traditionally made up of what is referred to in Scotland as sheep’s pluck of heart, liver and lungs minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices and salt mixed with stock and cooked encased in the animal’s stomach, although it is now more often artificial casing. Using meat from the Cheviot & Jacob lamb breed, this is heritage breed haggis like you’ve never tasted before.


Haggis is known for its nutty, savoury flavour and continues to welcome and surprise those who have never experienced its delicious taste. Such has been its increasing popularity that Farmison & Co’s Michelin Star chef Jeff Baker now includes haggis in another delight of Heritage Lamb Saddle along with Old English herbs.


‘You really don’t know what you’re missing if you’ve not tasted well produced haggis,’ says Farmison & Co founder John Pallagi. ‘It is a delicious dish that continues to astound those for whom the ingredients don’t sound particularly appetising, yet it really is one of the most unique, flavoursome delights – and on a Burns Night there’s really nothing else that comes close.’



But is haggis really a Scottish dish?


Debate rages over its origin and the truth is that while popular culture and Burn Night’s increasing popularity aligns haggis somewhat indelibly with the flag of St Andrew there is no actually no clear defining moment when it can be said haggis was born truly Scottish indeed the first textual references of haggis come from, and whisper it softly the Sassenachs south of the border!


Folklore has it that Scottish cattle drovers bound for Edinburgh with their cattle set for sale at the market would carry the equivalent of today’s snack box in the form of a haggis, their women having prepared the ingredients encased in a sheep’s stomach for ease of portability and transportation, but the jury is out over country of origin.


Nicola Sturgeon may at present be more concerned with what happens to Scotland as a result of Brexit than fighting a battle over the haggis’ true birthplace, but the first known recipes for the dish then spelled ‘hagese’ made with offal and herbs appear in a cookbook dated around 1430 – in Lancashire – and another the same year when spelled ‘hagws of a schepe’. This is the very reason why Farmison & Co’s traditional dish for Burns Night festivities is Handmade English Haggis using lamb from heritage breed sheep from the Red Rose county.


Order of play at your Burns Night


If you’re attending your first Burns Night or you’re attempting to run your own this is the typical order of events:


  • Piping In of the Guests
  • The Host’s Welcome Speech and The Selkirk Grace
  • First Course: Soup
  • Entry of the Haggis: Piping In of the Haggis & Burns’
  • Address to a Haggis
  • Main Course: Haggis with Tatties & Neeps
  • Any Other Courses
  • Toasts: To The Immortal Memory of Robbie Burns
  • Address to the Lassies
  • Reply to the Laddies
  • Recitations of Works by Burns


The first Burns Supper was held by his close friends at Burns’ Cottage on 21 July 1801, the fifth anniversary of his passing but the Burns Club founded in Greenock in 1801 held their first Burns Supper on 29 January 1802 thinking it was his birth date. It was later discovered through the Ayr parish records that the date was 25 January and Burns Night has been on this date since then. Robbie Burns was born in Alloway, now a suburb of Ayr in 1759.


The piping in of the haggis traditionally includes the cook bringing it in on a large dish generally with a piper playing the bagpipe leading the way to the host’s table. Burns songs usually played to accompany this vary from A Man’s a Man for A’ That to a medley.


Soup is usually such as Scotch broth, potato soup or cock-a-leekie. Tatties and Neeps served with the haggis are mashed potatoes and mashed swede. The speeches are often light-hearted and humorous.


Enjoy your own wee dram on Burns Night along with mouthwatering, delicious haggis; available to buy from Farmison & Co here.