It’s almost time for Burns Night, when we traditionally celebrate the life and poetry of the poet Robert Burns with a Burns Supper.
If you’re planning on getting involved in this most Scottish of celebrations with your own Burns Night Supper on Sunday 25th January, there’s only one thing to cook – haggis!
Whilst farm-reared haggis is widely available in most shops at this time of year, those looking to really push the boat out when entertaining should consider the rare, yet infinitely tastier, wild haggis.
Haggis scoticus is native to the Scottish highlands; you won’t find them anywhere else in the world. The small creatures have adapted fantastically well to their environment. Those who’ve seen the wild haggis running free will have noticed that its left and right legs are slightly different in length. This clever trick enables the haggis to easily negotiate steep mountains and hillsides – but only in one direction.
There are two main varieties of wild haggis: the one with longer left legs and the other with longer right legs. The former variety can run clockwise around a mountain (as seen from above) while the latter can only run anticlockwise.
Interestingly, the two varieties coexist peacefully but are unable to interbreed in the wild because in order for the male of one variety to mate with a female of the other, he must turn to face in the same direction as his intended mate, causing him to lose his balance before he can mount her. As a result of this difficulty, differences in leg length among the haggis population have become accentuated over the years.
Want to try the wild haggis for yourself? We recommend you serve it with neeps and tatties, and enjoy as you listen to the distant sounds of a highland piper. Click here to find your local wild haggis stockist. If you can’t get hold of haggis itself, Haggis Crisps can be bought in Wholefoods and Partridges of Sloane Square. Want to join the celebrations? Here’s a list of the best places to celebrate Burns Night in London.
Now we’ll leave you with the perfect poem for Burns Night, Address to a Haggis by Robert Burns. At Burns Night suppers this poem is usually given a dramatic rendition by a speaker. After apologising for ‘killing’ the haggis, they then plunge the knife into the haggis and slice it open during the line ‘An’ cut you up wi’ ready slight’’ meaning ‘and cut you up with skill’. The recital ends with the platter being raised above the speaker’s head whilst they say the triumphant words ‘Gie her a Haggis!’ to rapturous applause.
Address to a Haggis
Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye worthy o’ a grace
As lang’s my arm.
The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o need,
While thro your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.
His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An cut you up wi ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
The auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect scunner,
Looks down wi sneering, scornfu view
On sic a dinner?
Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll make it whissle;
An legs an arms, an heads will sned,
Like taps o thrissle.
Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer,
Gie her a Haggis