Bologna to Bolognese: Adventures With Food

Food is necessary. Food is fun. Food is an adventure!

My name is Shannon and this is my adventure, my love affair with food.

I hope you'll come along for the ride.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Addressing Haggis

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin'-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak yer place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o' a grace
As lang's my airm.

Address to a Haggis - Robert Burns

I don't remember when I first heard of Haggis but I do remember when I first learned what was in it. At the time it didn't sound appetizing at all. Now, years later, I find myself much more open minded and glad of it.

So, let us address the curious dish known as Haggis. This ancient meal is traditionally made with sheep's "pluck", or the heart, lungs, and liver mixed with the trimmings from the sheep, oatmeal and spices. This makes for a rich and savory pudding that is then steamed or boiled before being served. 

My first taste of this old world dish was at a "Burns Night Supper" in "The King's Arms" in Polebrook, England. My introduction began as it should, with Burns's "Address to a Haggis" given by a Scotsman who, true to the spirit of the poem, thrust the blade into the pudding with great enthusiasm making the delicious contents spill out ready to be spooned onto the waiting plates of the diners. This, served with Neps and Tatties and Cock a Leekie Soup, completed the night's fare. It was delicious and since then I have enjoyed reproducing parts of the meal but I'd never before attempted the centerpiece. The Haggis.

This year I felt inspired. I already had my Neps (turnips) and Tatties (potatoes) for Burn's night (January 25th) when an acquaintance clued me in on where to lay my hands on some ground lamb.  True Haggis cannot be sold in the US because of the inclusion of the sheep's lung. So unless you raise it yourself or are close friends with a farmer you are unlikely to have all the "pluck" close at hand. You may be able to get the heart, liver, tongue and stomach but if not, never fear. Traditionally Haggis is cooked in the stomach but again this was not something I had access to. That said, enough of what I didn't have lets get on to what I had and how you can use it to make your own "Mock Haggis". The recipe I used as a base was a traditional Scottish recipe published by BBC Food. I tried to stay as close to the original as possible.

Mock Haggis

1/2 lb (8oz) ground lamb 
1/2 lb (8oz) liver (beef or sheep)
2 oz shredded suet or vegetable shortening (suet will provide better flavor)
1 onion, finely chopped
4 oz oatmeal, toasted
1/2 tbsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground dried coriander
1/2 tsp mace
1/2 tsp nutmeg
some water (approximately 1/2 - 1 cup)

Other Items You May Need:

Sausage casing or parchment paper
Steaming insert


In a dry pan toast the oatmeal until is is lightly browned, remove from the heat. In a medium saucepan boil the liver for about 5 minutes then remove from the water and set aside to cool. Do not discard the water. Finely chop the onion and in a large bowl, combine with the ground lamb, oatmeal, spices and shredded shortening. Finely dice the liver and add to the meat mixture with some of the water used to boil it. This mixture should be moist but not wet and you should be able to easily shape it. If you have sausage casings this is where you would place the mixture in the casings and seal as directed by the package instructions. I did not have casings so I lightly greased a piece of parchment paper with shortening, placed the haggis mixture on the paper and rolled it like a candy twisting the ends tightly. Then I placed this package on a piece of tinfoil and settled it on my steaming insert in a tall stock pot. Make sure to add enough water to the pot to reach the bottom of the steamer and steam, covered, for 3 hours. Check water level periodically adding water as needed. After 3 hours remove the Haggis carefully from the steamer and serve. I stayed with the tradition of Neps and Tatties and served mine with mashed potatoes, roasted and mashed turnips and an onion gravy.

Whether you have had Haggis dozens of times or are giving it a try for the first time I think you'll find this recipe delicious and a fair representation of the dish in spite of the substitution of many of the authentic ingredients. So be brave and take a shot at it, you'll be glad you did!

The Haggis Wrapped in Parchment Paper

The Steamer

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Heart Healthy Carrot Cake Muffins

There are few irresistible foods in this world, but for me Carrot Cake is in the top tier. You know the ones that really get the drool machine going, seven layers of carroty goodness with oozing cream cheese frosting between each layer and a delicious crust of nuts on the outside of the whole glorious tower of decadence...Oh YUM! Of course, as much as I love it, that same delightful dessert is also packed full of calories and fat (especially with all that glorious icing)! Just one slice of "The Joy Of Baking" version will cost you about 643 calories. So after some research, and inspiration from a fellow blogger, I have a version that not only cuts the fat, but also packs a powerful punch of flavor. So what's different?

First, it's downsized. Instead of the whole cake you have muffins and thanks to the brilliance of Christina Marsigliese over at "Form 5 Artisan", you get the icing too it's just inside instead of out! Second let's address the term muffin. General consensus seems to point to muffins being less sweet and more dense, and in my opinion the perfect candidate for some added nutrients courtesy of whole wheat flour. Couple that with the much lower oil content in Christinas' recipe from "Form 5 Artisan" blog and you have a muffin with less fat and more fiber. Using that recipe as a base I made some other changes, removing some ingredients and adding others. As good as these are though I think I can go further, but more about that after the main event. Here is a delicious, healthier version of that delectable dessert the Carrot Cake. Heck, it's healthy enough to qualify as breakfast food again!

Heart Healthy Carrot Cake Muffins

(Makes 12 Servings)

1 c  all purpose flour
3/4 c  whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp  baking soda
1 tsp  baking powder
1 tsp  cinnamon
1/2 tsp  allspice
1/2 tsp  ginger
1/4 tsp  nutmeg
1/4 tsp  salt
2 c  grated carrots
2/3 c  sugar
1/3 c  brown sugar
2 eggs
1/4 c  applesauce
1/4 cup  fat free sour cream
6 tbsp  canola oil
1 tsp  vanilla

Frosting centers:

4 oz  cream cheese
2 tbsp  powdered sugar
1 tsp  vanilla
1/4 tsp  ground clove


Make the icing in advance. One day ahead use an electric mixer to combine the cream cheese, clove, vanilla and powdered sugar. Spoon mixture into decorative ice cube trays and freeze. (You can use any ice cube tray in a pinch but it's easier to incorporate the frosting if it's frozen).

For the muffins:

Preheat oven to 350. In large bowl combine the shredded carrots and sugars and allow to sit for a few minutes. In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix well. In a third bowl gently whip the eggs, then incorporate the sour cream, applesauce, and oil. Add this mixture to the carrots and sugar and mix well. Gently fold in the dry ingredients making sure they are well incorporated but also being careful not to over mix the batter. Fill a cupcake pan 1/2 way. (I used a novelty shaped silicone pan but you can use a normal pan, just remember to use paper liners).

Remove the icing from the molds and press into the center of each muffin. Top the muffins off with more batter to make sure the filling is well covered. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the side comes out clean.

These are simply fantastic and only 253 calories apiece, a far cry from the traditional carrot cake and it's heavy calorie price tag.

Now earlier I said I thought I could do better, and I do. The sour cream undoubtedly accounts for some of the reduction in oil but I think the next time I make this I will cut the oil again and increase the applesauce to 1/2c. Additionally I intend to switch the flour amounts to 1c Whole Wheat flour and 3/4 c All Purpose Flour. I also intend to double the allspice and ginger. When I made the filling I found I had about 2 Tbsp too much so, if you cut back to 3 oz instead of 4oz I think you'll still have enough to be satisfying but loose some fat. Be careful when adding the applesauce that you don't choose a brand high in sugar. I actually used home made apple butter in this batch which I know was low in sugar but unless you make your own, just be sure to read your labels or you could defeat all your best efforts to reduce calories by substituting.

I hope you have fun with this and make your own adjustments, so until next time, happy baking and happy eating.