Ask any Scottish person what their first memories of haggis are & I reckon they will tell you 3 things:
- Robert Burns Day
- Reciting poetry at School assembly
- Eating Haggis, Neeps and Totties at School, usually on a paper plate for some reason.
If they’re female,then add ‘wearing a scratchy kilt’ as well.
Needless to say this experience didn’t do much to incite passion in young children for Rab’s poetry or the haggis. Unless Nick Nairn was a school alumni and popped by for a Daily Record photo opp to introduce a ‘new way’ with Haggis (which always featured some kind of ‘jus’) it was always dry and bland. The dinner ladies microwaved their haggis within an inch of its life and started boiling the potatoes & turnip while we were getting out of bed that morning. Seasoning and a sauce was unheard of.
Also, Haggis, Neeps & Totties is boring! And I say this as someone who really loves it. Scottish foodies and Chefs have been dishing it up in a fancy tower and waving around their port jus or creamy whisky sauce for years now in an attempt to fancy this dish up, but it always ends up as the same meal we’ve been eating for years.
So if this has been your only exposure to our traditional meal I completely understand why, according to Sykes Cottages, two thirds of Scots wouldn’t order haggis in a restaurant. When Sykes Cottages invited me to enter their Inaugural Haggis Championships to try and jazz up this sad wee fella I jumped at the chance. I knew I had a challenge on my hands because I wanted to introduce a different way of eating haggis while encouraging non-haggis eaters to have a go.*
My entry, Haggis Samosas, pays homage to the ‘great chieftain o the pudding race’ and to the cultural diversity of Glasgow. The Indian and Pakistani communities are two of the largest established ethnic communities within the city which unsurprisingly has had a profound effect on what we Weegies eat.
These little gems are a fusion of our beloved haggis wrapped up in a crunchy samosa wrapper. They are not only a new way of serving Haggis, Neeps & Totties but a new way of eating them too. Until now haggis has forced us to sit at the dinner table with a knife & fork but the samosa version means the traditional meal has entered the domain of snack food. Serve these samosas as a snack for when friends come over, as an accompaniment to a curry or settle down with a plateful of samosas, a couple beers and a good movie. On the sofa of course.
Cook the haggis according to the packet instructions. Generally you can microwave, steam or cook in the oven. I prefer the oven method. While it may take longer to cook (approx. 70 mins depending on the brand) I reckon the taste is better. I use this time in between to cook the potatoes & turnip.
If cooking in the oven you remove the outer packaging but keep the haggis in the casing. Wrap in tin foil & place in an oven dish with a lid. Add ¾ cup of water to the dish, clamp the lid on & bake for 70 mins at 190C.
Meanwhile, peel the turnip and cut it into slices approx ½ cm thick. Cut these slices into cubes approx ½ cm in size. Do the same with the potatoes but I don’t bother to peel if they are clean. Toss both into a pot of cold water with a little salt. Bring to the boil & cook for a further 12 minutes. Drain & leave to cool on a plate until the haggis is ready.
When the haggis is cooked, remove from the dish and pierce open the casing. Spoon the mixture onto a plate and spread it out in a thin layer so it cools faster. When the haggis is cool enough to handle, break up the larger pieces so there are no large chunks.
In a large bowl mix together the haggis, potatoes, turnip, spring onion & parsley, then season with salt & pepper. Add the gravy to the mixture slowly, stirring as you go until the mixture begins to loosen up. You don’t want a runny mixture but there does need to be enough gravy to stop the mixture drying out when it cooks. Aim for the consistency of a thick stew.
Now prepare the wrappers for your samosas. If you are using samosa wrappers these will already be trimmed to the right shape so skip to Step 7. I buy Spring Roll wrappers from my local Asian Supermarket and these also do the job well. I need to trim them to size which is why I have smaller than your average samosas. Lay the wrapper out in front of you and using a sharp knife, cut it into 3 evenly sized strips.
Spoon 1tsp of the Haggis mixture into the top right hand corner of 1 strip. Fold the right hand corner of the strip over so it meets the left side. You should now have a little triangle of wrapper containing the mixture.
Fold the triangle straight down so it is still sitting against the left side of the strip.
Fold the triangle over to the right side.
Then straight down again. You should now have an enclosed triangle containing the filling.
Dip your fingers into the cornflour & water mixture and use this to dampen the flap of wrapper sticking away from the wrapped triangle. Fold the damp flap over the samosa and press down to seal. Don’t worry if it feels like it’s coming away or it doesn’t seal securely, it will be fine when frying.
Set this samosa aside & repeat until you finish the mixture. It may seem fiddly to start with but you do get the hang of wrapping the samosas quickly. The next time you make these it won’t take you half as long.
Add the oil to a wok or a frying pan over a medium-high heat. If you’re using a thermometer the oil needs to be at 175C before you can start cooking. If you don’t have a thermometer, give the oil 5-7 minutes to heat up and test the temperature by dropping a piece of bread into the oil. If the bread crisps up & browns within 60 secs, the oil is ready for cooking.
Carefully lay the samosas into the oil and cook each side until golden. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan otherwise the temperature of the oil will drop. Drain onto some kitchen paper before serving with the dips. If you’re worried about the Samosa’s getting cold before serving, keep them warm in a low oven (120-130C) until serving.
The wrapped samosas & filling (both uncooked) will keep in the fridge for 1 day.
Make it Veggie – Use a Vegetarian Haggis & Vegetable Gravy
Make it Vegan – Use the veggie haggis & gravy but check the Samosa wrappers to make sure they are suitable. If not, try Tortilla wraps & cut them into strips as above.
*Note: Sykes Cottages kindly covered the costs of ingredients & provided the personalised apron.