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Make your own Home-made Haggis for Burns' Night!

In 1801, some five years after the famous Scottish poet, Robert (Robbie) Burns' death, nine of his friends sat down to dinner, to celebrate his extraordinary life and to gave thanks for his friendship. Little did they know that this remembrance would resonate down through the centuries and span all across the world. Over the years, the informal theme from that evening has developed into the ritual known internationally known as Burns Night.

Presenting and Toasting the Haggis have become part of the ritual of a Burns Night event!

Here in Donegal, with our historic association with Scotland and Scottish traditions, we have  long been enjoying the lightly spiced and peppery flavours of this famous dish. Haggis is traditionally eaten on Burns Night which falls on the 25th January and is the birthday of the Scottish poet. One of the longest established and most famous Burns Night events held in the republic of Ireland has been the Annual Burns Supper & Ceilidh at Harvey's Point Hotel, in County Donegal (see

Robert Burns - Celebrating the poets birthday has made the Haggis world famous!
The Haggis, which tastes almost like our Irish black and white puddings mixed together, is a very old traditional dish that combines meats, spices and oatmeal.  A traditional Scottish recipe for haggis would involve the boiled and minced liver, lungs and heart of a sheep mixed with chopped onions, toasted oatmeal, salt, pepper, and spices.

The mixture would then be stuffed into the cleaned sheep’s stomach, sewn up and then boiled gently for several hours! The dish is usually served with "neeps and tatties" which is mashed turnip and potatoes, a whiskey sauce, a few readings of some poetry, along with copious amounts of whiskey to toast the Haggis!

A Traditional Haggis with Neeps (Turnips) and Tatties (Potatoes) & a Wee Dram of Whiskey!

Creating a Burns Night event at your home or restaurant is a splendid reason to go out to eat and drink with friends in January! Although the traditional date is the 25th January, most restaurants and hotels celebrate a Burns Night event on the Friday or Saturday closest to that date.

That's me when I was asked to assist with a Burn's Supper put on recently by members of the local Ulster-Scots community. It was an honour to be asked and a sign of the changes being achieved in Irish historical relationships.

Here is my modern version of an old Haggis recipe where instead of the sheep’s stomach you cook the Haggis in a casserole dish.

My Ingredients:
500g minced lamb
500g minced beef
125g suet (beef or vegetable)
500g beef liver
100g of porridge oats
300ml of  meat stock (strain this from the boiled beef and lamb)
250g finely chopped onions
½ tsp grated nutmeg
¼ tsp ground mace
½ tsp of cayenne pepper
¼ tsp ground coriander
butter for greasing
a few twists of sea salt
a few twists of ground black pepper

My Method:
1. Preheat oven to 160°C.
2. Cover the roughly-cut liver with cold water, bring to a boil and cook for five minutes. Strain away the liquid and then chop the liver with the onion, in a blender or on a board, as finely as you can.
3. Cover the lamb & beef mince with water and bring to the boil in a large pot. Cook out for approximately 30 minutes. Keep 300ml stock from this cooked meat.
4. Give the porridge oats a rough chop and toast them on a hot pan or under a grill, shaking occasionally to make sure they don't burn.
5. Now mix all the ingredients together with the stock and transfer the mix to a well greased casserole dish. Cover and seal with a layer of tin-foil.
6. Place in a bain marie (a water bath) using a pan large enough to accommodate the dish and add boiled water around it, to come ¾ of the way up the dish. Check this from time to time and top up the water level. Cook for about 2½ hours.

Invite your friends around and make your own home-made Haggis for a Burns' Night Supper!

For the Whiskey sauce:
500ml cream
2 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 tbls Dijon mustard
2 tsp Irish whiskey
sea salt
ground white pepper
3 tbls chopped scallions

To make the whiskey sauce, heat the cream in a pan over a medium heat. Add the wholegrain mustard, Dijon mustard, scallions and whiskey and stir with a small whisk. Increase the heat until the mixture is simmering and cook for 1-2 minutes until it thickens up a little. Remove the pan from the heat and season with salt and ground white pepper.

To serve:
Spoon out the Haggis, accompanied with mashed turnips and potatoes and drizzle with the whiskey sauce. I like to stack the Haggis, using a serving ring for presentation and drizzle the sauce around it!

Oh! And here is my version of what a live Haggis animal may look like!


And the Best Irish "Food Find" of 2011 is...

On the evening of December 29th we were sitting around chatting about all the wonderful things we had discovered during the year so I decided to pose a question to Twitter.

“Question! What was Your favourite Irish food find of 2011? #BestIrishFood” 
...I tweeted.

The replies came back thick and fast from all over, both from people in the food trade here and customers who had been out & about eating, here in Ireland, during 2011.

The general consensus was that the standard of food, produced here by small and dedicated producers, is second to none and that this standard is rising all the time as new names start to emerge from the market-stalls, farm-kitchen & start-up units around Ireland.

Some of the products named here are nationally recognised, some are only found in local shops or market-stalls and one is found on the side of the road near the sea!

They all have one thing in common. These Irish food products have all gained the respect of many hundreds of fans who are not afraid to praise their delicious & unique qualities!

One name in particular kept popping up, but I’ll save that to last!

So here, in alphabetical order, are my Top 21 Best Irish Food Finds of 2011, as decided by the Twitter foodies that follow @irishfoodguide!

Bacon Jam
With both @edhick and @eatlikeagirl getting shouts of approval!
Bellingham Blue Cheese
Made by Peter and Anita Thomas in Castlebellingham,
County Louth - 042 9372343 / 087 277853
Boar’s Head Black Pudding
Jack McCarthy’s Butchers, Kanturk, Co. Cork
Connemara Hill Lamb
Fed on a diet of natural fresh herbs, heathers and grasses
Dominic’s Bakery
Yeast-free, sugar-free soda breads Athy Road, Carlow
Ed Hicks Smoked Venison
Fallow Venison from Sligo
Fig & Balsamic relish
“Fab with cold meats, pate and cheese” said @drivenmental
Olde Farm free-range Pork
Naturally produced, delicious, free-range pork from Tipperary
Glebe Brethan Cheese
Made by David Tiernan & Family, Dunleer, Co. Louth
Greenore 8yr old whiskey
Single Grain limited edition Irish whiskey
High Bank Orchard 's Apple Syrup
Ireland's answer to maple syrup made in Kilkenny
Home-farmed Sweetcorn
By David Burns
Homemade Pizza
Pizza came well up the list with three names popping up regularly La Cucina @italianfoodie for their Irlandais Pizza & @Darren Bradley and @TheHandyKitchen coming a joint 2nd
Janets Chutneys
Made by Janet Drew in Kilcoole, Co. Wicklow
Lannleire Honey
Produced by Eoghan Mac Giolla Coda, Trean, Dunleer, Co. Louth (041) 6861884
Scotch eggs
at L Mulligan Grocer in Stoneybatter, Dublin 7
Ummera Smoked Chicken
Hot Oak-smoked by Anthony Creswell in Inchybridge, Timoleague, Co. Cork.
Stonewell Irish Cider
Made by Daniel and Geraldine Emerson in Kinsale, County Cork
Wild Alexander Seeds
As Ed Hick said “You’ll find it at roadside near the sea. So aromatic! Like Irish peppercorns, without the heat!”

And the most tweeted-back-to-me Irish Food Find for 2012 was:

Mary & Tony Walsh’s Kilkenny Free Range Chickens

They manage production of their birds all the way from a day old chick to the end customer. Their volume of production is very small by industry standards thereby ensuring that they maintain the highest quality. 

Mary Walsh checking out her flock of gosling
Most of the people who mentioned their chicken first heard about them at the Savour Kilkenny festival and then discovered that many of the top restaurants in Dublin & the Southeast have been serving these tasty birds for several years. 

They specialise in Chicken, Duck & Geese and you can find out more about them here:

Share the news. Irish Food is simply the Best!

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The Irish Food Guide is...

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The Irish Food Guide Blog includes news, foodie chat, recipes, award results, links and other general information on the Food & Tourism Industry in Ireland.

It is written & curated by Zack Gallagher, Donegal Town, Co Donegal, Ireland.

“My Blog is a slice of the Irish Food ‘Network’. I’m a Chef with over 27 years experience and also have a background in media. I’m passionate about Irish Food Tourism and I believe that a rising tide really can lift all boats!”

Supporting Irish Food created by passionate producers and encouraging the Irish food & hospitality industry to use modern social media methods to increase their business.

Zack is building an all-Ireland Food Tourism network to assist Tour Operators bringing guests into Ireland to connect easily with artisan Irish food producers, so as they can experience the provenance and personality behind our Irish food Visit