"Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, great chieftain o' the puddin race." So begins Scottish poet Robert Burns' most famous work, "Address to a Haggis", a literary love letter to perhaps one of the world's most maligned dishes. Haggis may not seem a great chieftain to the uninitiated: it's a savoury pudding, a mix of sheep's heart, lungs and liver, all minced up with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices and salt and then stuffed into a sheep's stomach before being cooked. But it's delicious. It began as the food of the poor, though now it's a much-loved staple throughout Scotland, widely regarded as the national dish. Haggis is traditionally served with "neeps and tatties", or boiled turnips and potatoes, though you're just as likely to find it dished up with chips at late-night takeaway shops.
Say this quietly, perhaps just to yourself, but the first recorded mention of a dish made of chopped-up sheep innards and herbs, called "hagese", comes in the year 1430, in… Lancashire. In England. Awkward. Most historians, however, believe haggis is still likely to have been invented in Scotland some time before that – though there are others who point to similar dishes eaten by the Romans, as well as comparable preparations in Scandinavia and France. Regardless, by around the 17th century haggis had become a common dish among Scottish farmers looking to make the most of their animals.
For a high-end, gourmet version of haggis, neeps and tats, try it served with whisky cream sauce at Edinburgh's fancy Brasserie Prince (roccofortehotels.com). For a more traditional take, order a "wee dram" and a haggis at Whiski Bar (whiskibar.co.uk) in the same city.
In Sydney, call past David's Larder (davidslarder.com.au), a specialty Scottish butcher in North Ryde, to buy a haggis to cook at home. In Melbourne, make your way directly to the Kilted Haggis (kiltedhaggis.com.au) in Spotswood.
ONE MORE THING
The humble haggis – and the great poet Robert Burns – are celebrated each year in Scotland on January 25, with Burns Night. During a Burns supper, the haggis is traditionally "piped in", or presented to the table accompanied by bagpipers, and then "Address to a Haggis" is read in full before diners can tuck in.