Category Archives: Lamb

Haggis and Clapshot

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!

Address to a Haggis, Robert Burns

 

A lamb's pluck: liver, heart, and lungsHaggis: unquestionably the king of the Scots kitchen. Rarely eaten, much maligned, completely misunderstood.

Haggis is made of a sheep’s pluck, which is a tidy term for the lungs, heart, and liver. Traditionally these parts would be boiled, ground, mixed with oats and onions, then stuffed into a cleansed sheep’s stomach, making what is essentially a large, round sausage.

Sheep are rarely brought to maturity in North America, so all the offal I used was from a lamb. Lamb bits are smaller and milder in flavour than sheep bits.

Most of the ingredients are easier to obtain than you might expect. Four Whistle Farm routinely brings offal of all sorts to the Strathcona market, so all you have to do is send a quick e-mail to Marius to confirm that the required organs will be there on the required Saturday. (The lungs, discouragingly, are not held in the “Lamb” section of the display, but the “Dog Food” section…)  More recently I have been buying whole lambs from Tangle Ridge Ranch, and they have been providing me with the offal.

The only real trouble is the stomach. I have approached a few vendors. Most give excuses, citing, for instance, “regulations” or some such nonsense. Others say plainly that the abattoir doesn’t like to do weird things like that. Apparently harvesting the stomach requires extensive cleaning and blanching that most abattoirs aren’t set up for.

As such I use a beef bung instead of a sheep’s stomach. A beef bung is a long, dead-end portion of the cow’s intestinal tract. Once stuffed it is about five inches across and a few feet long. It is the traditional casing for mortadella and cappicola. I have a sneaking suspicion that many of the images of haggis I came across during my research were actually made with beef bung.

The details of the preparation follow.

Haggis
Adapted from The Scots Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 2 lamb lungs, roughly 300g
  • 2 lamb hearts, roughly 300g
  • 2 lamb livers, roughly 400g
  • 300g chopped onions, gently cooked in butter
  • 150g lamb suet
  • 150g honeyed, toasted, rolled oats (you can use this recipe for granola)
  • 27g salt
  • black pepper, nutmeg, and allspice to taste
  • 1 beef bung

Procedure

Traditionally the raw offal is thrown in a pot of boiling water, but searing in a hot pan first adds some extra colour and flavour.

The seared pluck
Put the seared offal in a large pot. If you are lucky and your lungs are still attached to their windpipe, drape the windpipe over the edge of the pot so that any fluid expelled by the lungs doesn’t end up in your water. If you don’t have a windpipe, don’t worry. Cover the offal with cold water, then bring the pot to a boil. The lungs, as you might expect, want to float, so you’ll have to weigh them down. I used a plate and a tin can because I’m classy.

Simmer for an hour and a half. All kinds of ungodly brown scum will form on the surface, especially if you don’t have the windpipe as a purge line. If you are very diligent with the skimming, you may still be able to use some of the flavourful cooking liquid later on.

The simmering pluck, weighed down with a tin can
Chill the cooked offal thoroughly. Mix with the fat, onions, salt, and spices.

The cooked pluck with onions and suet
Grind the mixture through a 3/16″ plate.

The ground mixture
Add the toasted oats to the ground offal. Mix on a low speed, slowly incorporating a bit of the boiling liquid. If your boiling liquid was deemed undesirable, use stock. The forcemeat should become somewhat paste-like.

Mixing the forcemeat with toasted oats
Soak the beef bung for about an hour. Rinse thoroughly inside and out.

A beef bung
Roll up your sleeves and stuff the forcemeat into the bung. Pack it tightly, ensuring there are no air pockets. Traditionally the sheep’s stomach would be sewn shut (hence the line “Your pin wad help to mend a mill / In time o’ need” in the Address to a Haggis.) Working with the beef bung, I simply tied the open end in a large knot.

The stuffed bung
Simmer the haggis until heated through, about two hours. The beef bung, just so you know, is not usually consumed; it’s just a vessel.

Simmering the haggis

Clapshot: Neeps and Tatties

Clapshot is mashed turnips (“neeps”) and potatoes (“tatties”). I have no idea where the term comes from. The classic recipe uses equal parts of each, but since turnips are so much moister than potatoes, I prefer one part turnip to two parts potato.

Peel the potatoes and turnips and cut them into large chunks. Boil them in separate pots, as they take different lengths of time to cook. Simmer each until very tender, but not falling apart. Pass the vegetables through a food mill while still warm. Combine, then spread on a tray to cool thoroughly. This can be done the night before the meal.

To serve, heat the milled vegetables with a bit of lamb stock. Beat in cubes of butter, and season with salt and pepper.

This really is the perfect accompaniment to the haggis. The sweetness of the turnips compliments the savoury offal. The slightly fluid nature of the mash allows it to mingle with the haggis.The finished plate: haggis and clapshot
You would expect offal boiled for hours to be tough and dry, but the grinding tenderizes the meat and glands, and the onions and stock-drenched oats give moisture. The final mix looks a lot like ground beef, but it’s much lighter and moister than hamburger.

Scotch Broth, or Barley-Broth

Roast lamb bones and vegetables in a stock potSome would think this is the inside of my compost bin, but it’s actually the inside of my stockpot: roasted lamb bones and vegetables, as well as all the darkly caramelized bits scraped from the bottom of the roasting tray. These flavours formed the soul of the Burns Supper, as the resulting stock was used not only in the soup, but also in the haggis and the clapshot. They were the mellow, earthy foundation of the entire meal.

Making a pot of stock the night before a large meal has become a very fond tradition. The house fills with the aroma first of roasting bones, then of the simmering stock, while excitement for the coming meal slowly accrues.

Some specifics on the stock. First I roasted lamb bones from Four Whistle Farm. It’s hard to come by good lamb femur bones, I think because of the popularity of leg roasts and shanks. A touch of tomato paste was smeared over the bones for the latter half of the roasting. Then onion, carrot, celery, and garlic were baked. The pans were deglazed with water, and bay and rosemary were added. Finally the whole lot was covered in cold water, brought to a simmer and left overnight.

Barley-Broth, with kale and scrag

The first course of my Burns Suppers is always barley-broth, which in North American is usually called Scotch broth.  Vegetable-wise the soup contains onions, kale, and carrots.  The pearled barley is cooked in a separate pot so that it doesn’t cloud the stock.

The final garnish is lamb neck, or scrag. Neck is a variety-cut that sounds a lot grosser than it really is: the meat is indistinguishable from that of the shoulder. The necks are seared, braised in some of the lamb stock, cooled, shredded, and added to the soup.

A bowl of barley-broth, with kale and scrag

Mincemeat

A jar of mincemeat, reading to age in the fridgeThis is a dish that confused me for some time. “Minced” means broken up (it’s actually related to the word “minute,” as in exceedingly small). The British use the word “minced” in places we might use the word “ground,” so when I started hearing about mincemeat pies, I assumed they were meat pies.

Then certain people (Lisa, Alton Brown) tried to explain to me that there was no meat in mincemeat pies at all, just dried fruit.

Just as I started grappling with the idea of a meatless mincemeat, I found one of my grandma’s recipes which seemed to combine the aforementioned concepts. The ingredients:

  • beef chuck
  • suet
  • apples
  • dried currants
  • sultana raisins
  • citron (I believe this refers to candied lemon peel, not actual citron fruit…)
  • cider (knowing my grandma, non-alcoholic)
  • spices>

The ingredients were chopped, cooked, and canned.  I’m still trying to come up with a definition. “Dried fruit, usually with fat, sometimes with meat,” might work, but, “Dried fruit and whatever else you have on hand” is probably the safest. This week I had suet, apple preserves, dried cranberries, dried currants, raisins, and brandy.

I was initially excited about the preserving potential of mincemeat, but most of the ingredients are already shelf-stable, and those that aren’t (beef, apples) are probably best preserved in other ways. At any rate, the mix keeps very well, and actually benefits from storage, much like fruitcake. It makes a great pie. The partially reconstituted fruit has a very satisfying chew.

Notes on my version:

  • I add meat to my mince.   I heavily browned the meat before adding it to the other ingredients to develop flavour texture.
  • I used lamb suet and shoulder, instead of beef.  I happen to have lots of lamb right now.
  • I processed the mixture for a finer, more consistent texture

Lamb Mincemeat
2011′s version, grafting my grandmother’s recipe to Alton Brown’s, and using lamb instead of beef

Ingredients

  • 2 tart apples, peeled, cored, and quartered
  • 8 oz sultana raisins
  • 4 oz dried sour cherries
  • 4 oz dark brown sugar
  • 2 ounces lamb suet, coarsely chopped
  • 6 oz ground lamb shoulder
  • 1 orange, zested and juiced
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1/4 cup spiced rum
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground clove

Procedure

  1. Heavily brown the ground lamb in a hot, heavy-bottomed stainless steel pan.  The meat should be a deep amber on all surfaces.  Strain the meat to separate it from any rendered fat.  Chill thoroughly.
  2. Combine all ingredients except bread crumbs in a food processor.  Pulse until ingredients are well-combined and desired texture is achieved.  Pulsing 10 times will give a mincemeat with a coarse texture.  I prefer a finer, more homogeneous texture.
  3. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge atleast 1 week before using.  Keeps for 6 months.

An individual mincemeat pie