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Loue maself a Haggis!

Can someone tell me where’s the time gone? I only just realised that Christmas is this next Sunday~! Thousand apologies, I know I know… A Table For Two has been a little quiet off late, <iframes> and <borders> are also gathering dusts these days. But I can guarantee you that I haven’t been slacking off, in fact I was well truly productive, let’s recap what I’ve been up to for the last few weeks:

  1. working very hard on my cookbook,
  2. part time at Patisse cafe
  3. cooking demo with Love Food Hate Waste programme at Lane Cove council
  4. charity cooking workshop with the children at Autism school in Blacktown
  5. In Malaysia for Royal Selangor’s 30-day breast cancer awareness challenge award ceremony
  6. PLUS a few other exciting projects in 2012 including an intimate culinary tour to Malaysia with me! We are so so close at finalising the itinerary now, if you are into food, food and food – then you seriously don’t want to miss out! Details will be announced real soon!

It was a busy few weeks, but ‘good’ busy and of course all work and no play will make Billy a very sad boy. Hence, after two random dinner parties at two random months, it is time for me and The Pom to host the themed dinner party at our house – so bring on tartans, whisky and haggis, because we are having Burns Night in November!

The idea came about when The Pom asking me where can we get haggis in Australia. To be honest, I had no idea! I’d only had haggis once at the Brigadoon in Bundanoon, Southern Highlands, NSW many years ago. So we decided to host the Burns Night at Forty Five and go for a Haggis hunt in Australia.

The word ‘haggis‘ will even make some of those who called themselves foodies shudder when they hear it. And for those who don’t know what haggis is, well let’s put it this way, if you don’t like offals, then you probably won’t like haggis. It is a traditional Scottish dish that is made from sheep’s offal, oatmeal, herbs and spices, stuffed inside sheep’s stomach then simmered for hours. You either like it or hate it, never in between. For me, haggis actually taste much better than it sound or look.

Haggis aside, there are plenty more Scottish food to share at the party. I was worried that we will struggle to come up with dishes for a Scottish themed dinner party, but who’d have thought that everyone really put their thinking caps on and came up with many delicious food. Mr Wingdingo’s Scotch quail eggs were a big hit as afternoon snack! He followed Heston Blumenthal’s recipes for this scotch eggs which acquired double coating of breadcrumbs to give that extra crunchy outer shell.

The Coogeeboys had also prepared the classic Devils on horseback. Not sure it is English or Scottish, but if you have heard of this classic 1970’s hors d’oeuvre or even had one too many in your life, then you are clearly showing your age. Believe it or not, it was my first time trying these little morsels and could clearly understand why they were so popular. The sweet prunes wrapped inside the salty bacon worked like a charm together, broiled in the oven gave it a nice caramelised crispy edges. Old skool is the new cool I say, definitely will being this classic back into 21st century in my food depository.

Monkey Shoulder, Bowmore, Glenfiddich, perfect names for rock bands, there were also Scotch Whisky a plenty floating around in the house, more than enough to make you grow chest hair overnight. (Let me explain, Asians do believe if you rub whisky or cognac on your chest will enhance the growth of hair. Myth or not, give a try.)

Whisky aside, our new found coastie pals, let’s call them The ToyBoys (*), are fabulous at cocktails. Their signature ‘The Broadview’, named after the street they live in is a refreshing summery concoction of cointreau, vodka, lime and cranberry juice. Then there was this sweet sticky Butterscotch cocktail that was irresistably addictive.

* Disclaimer – The name ToyBoys is derived from their addiction in video games and a huge collection of vinyl figurines displayed in their home.

I was running back and forth the whole night, a little chaotic for me to juggle between preparing the food at our own kitchen and entertaining the guests at holiday home next door. Sadly, I totally forgot there was a Dundee Cake baking in the oven and by the time I came back to rescue, it was already burned on the outside, and the cake itself was dry like sawdust. This is the second time I had no success with a Dundee Cake, now I seriously doubting the recipe in that particular book actually works!

But more importantly the hero dish of the night was safe. After two hours of baking, the haggis was ready to be served! As much as we’d like to follow the traditional way on how to eat a haggis, instead of bagpipe, the only music to my ear when the haggis brought to the table was the bubbling sound on the sheep’s skin when it came out of the oven. None of us are Scottish to know Robert Burns’ poem on how to address a haggis, hence a youtube version on my blog here will do. So just imagine I was talking gibberish as I was cutting the haggis.

(I seriously can’t understand a single word of what he was saying!)

The haggis I purchased from David Jones food hall was actually from Hill’s Butchery at Maroubra. The 1.5kg beast was big fat ball of with sheep’s pluck, a mince mix of heart, liver and lungs. The haggis sold at markets are already cooked and you just need to reheat.

My initial plan was to boil the haggis the traditional way before serving, luckily the butcher at David Jones gave me a good tip on how to prepare the haggis by baking it in the oven. That way the haggis won’t get waterlogged from boiling for the second time, and also the mixture inside will dry out from baking to give a better texture for eating. He also suggested to turn up the temperature of the oven at the last minutes of baking to crisp up the stomach casing. Well, only if you are game enough to eat a sheep’s stomach.

I found the haggis was very moreish with a strong liver flavour from all the offal but not overpowering. Oatmeal was used to bulk it up and added texture, lots of herbs and spices are usually mixed in to cover the strong smell and taste of offal, but this one was nicely balanced and not overly spiced.

Mr & Ms Pirates also made a vegetarian haggis for the non-meat eaters. I seriously thought the kids would be squeamish and go for the vegetarian version but surprisingly they loved the meaty haggis as much as I did!

Cock-a-leekie had also made it to the table, but in a pie form rather than the traditional Scottish soup. Summer in Australia really isn’t the weather for a hot soup, hence I decided to turn it into a chicken and leek pie instead. I think I had just as much fun decorating the pie using alphabet cookie cutters as making it.

You simply can’t have haggis without the neeps and tatties. A simple double mash of potatoes and turnips allowed itself to soak up all the flavours from the haggis.

Since my Dundee cake was a failure, thank god Coogeeboys’ dessert saved the day. They called it the deconstructed haggis dessert, resembled of a trifle in a glass, but it was piled with summer berries, with sweet oatmeal crumbs and doused in vanilla custard.

The Toyboys sure love their cocktails and quickly whisked up a whimsical toffee apple cocktail after the dessert. It tasted just as delicious as it looked, it was like drinking boozy apple sauce in a glass! We went a little bit too far with the toffee caramelisation but thank god a mistake turned out to be great. The hint of bitterness of the toffee was just what it needed to balance out the sweetness of the caramelised apple. Nibbling on the crunchy toffee while sipping the cocktail, what not to love? And I can’t wait for the next dinner party in 2012 already!

In the mean time, let us toast for this festive season and welcome the new year 2012!

Lang may yer lum reek!

In another words, ‘may you live long and stay well!’