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  • 26 Sep

    Who makes their own haggis? (For crying out loud.)

    Posted by Team Macsween

    ...Anyone who's just moved from Scotland to the otherwise very nice but completely Macsweenless land of America, that's who.

    This week saw a glimmer of hope that longstanding trade barriers could be removed opening up opportunities to export iconic Scottish products, such as haggis, to America. With these new opportunities emerging we decided to catch up with one intrepid expat to see how she currently copes in a world without Macsween:

    Picture the rolling, golden hills of northern California and imagine that portentous movie-trailer voice, saying: "In a worrrrrllllld without Macsween's, one woman is on a quest to track down liver, find out the Spanish for "sheep's pluck" and learn how to flirt suet out of Mexican butchers before Burn's night commmmmmmes. This [pause] is her storyyyyyyy."

    The suet was the biggest mystery.  There are cows in the US and they have kidneys, so the apparent non-existence of cows' kidney fat was a puzzler. I eventually tracked it down in the Narnia-like Corti Brothers' store in Sacramento.

    I didn't even try to find any other offal apart from liver, since the liver was tough enough, and although I learned the Spanish for "sheep's pluck" - oveja buce - the assurances that it came in 10lb boxes made me think it was wee bits of snipped up stomach that I'd have to make into a sort of quilt before stuffing. So I made my haggis in a pudding basin, like a clootie dumpling. Which caused its own kind of problem (see below).

    And then of course it's not a very likely seeming recipe that starts "boil the liver for forty minutes", is it? Also, a pot of boiling liver isn't attractive...
    Pic 1

    Neither is the big steaming bowlful of grey juice with globules of fat on top that you end up with...
    Pic 2

    But I pressed on, thinking that with enough onions and black pepper almost anything would end up tasty.

    It was the gargantuan amount of oatmeal in the recipe that started all the trouble.

    Let me share a secret with you: oatmeal swells. I knew it did - I cook porridge every morning from October to May.  But a kilo of oatmeal swells a lot.  And the bowl I'd set aside to steam my haggis in wasn't up to the job.  I've got a bigger bowl, but it had a rhubarb and ginger trifle under construction in it.

    So, despite the Spanish and the flirting and the suet mystery, actually the biggest challenge of my first home-made haggis was performing a trifle-ectomy.
    Pic 3 Crop

    Pic 4 Crop

    And in the end all was well.  With the haggis, neeps and tatties and with the trifle too
    Pic 5   Pic 6

    Now I've broken my duck, next Burns' Night I'll be mincing liver and grating suet like a pro, but while I'm back in the old country for the Autumn, it's Macsween's all the way.

    Catriona McPherson is the Agatha-award-winning author of a series of (preposterous) 1920s detective stories, including DANDY GILVER AND A DEADLY MEASURE OF BRIMSTONE, set in Scotland, where she was born and where she lived until 2010.  She now lives in northern California with two black cats and a scientist, writing and cooking.  www.catrionamcpherson.com