Haggis. The national dish of Scotland with roots in folklore and tradition. A ‘peasant food’ that has risen to become, like tartan and scotch whisky, an icon of Scottish culture known around the world.
The exact origins of haggis are still unclear and debated. Similar recipes have appeared throughout history with its earliest mentions in pre-1500s poetry. A similar dish can even be found described in book 20 of Homer's Odyssey.
The Scottish roots of haggis are just as unclear. Before its rise to fame as an iconic part of Scotland's national identity, it has been linked to Vikings, old English recipes and cattle farmers.
One theory is that haggis was carried over to Scotland on a Viking longboat. It was a dish made of offcuts and cheap meats, preserved in an animal's stomach lining, making it suitable for the long journeys across oceans.
Another theory puts the origins in the days of old Scottish cattle drovers. A meal prepared by the wives of those who would drive their cattle across Scotland for sale. An easy to eat lunch, wrapped in sheep's stomach, and made from readily available ingredients.
The dish's popularity didn't begin to rise until Robert Burns wrote the poem Address to a Haggis. The first lines of the poem: 'Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face, Great Chieftain o’ the puddin’-race! Aboon them a’ ye tak yer place’ is Burns declaring haggis to be the chief of the meat clan? Burns wrote the poem as a celebration of the traditional haggis, which at the time was a popular dish for the poor.
Since then, haggis has become an iconic part of Scotland's identity. It is consumed traditionally for New Year celebrations, Hogmanay, and as a part of a Burns Supper on Burns Night, held annually on the poet's birthday (25 January).
While traditionally served with neeps (turnips) and tatties (mashed potato) it has become a versatile piece of Scottish cuisine, from being served with breakfast to being used as a stuffing for poultry and game.
Haggis can be found on the menus of high-end restaurants, proving that it belongs with the finest dishes served daily by Michelin star chefs.
The title of ‘Scottish Haggis Champion’ is considered the ‘Holy Grail’ of competition success among Scotland’s elite butchers. Only a handful have ever won the title making those who have, members of the most exclusive club in our industry.