I’m kind of a day late and a dollar short, which is not unusual.

I celebrate St. Andrew’s Day twice annually–on November 30 (his feast day) and also on March 17.  In my salad days, I celebrated by buying everyone (and I mean everyone) whiskey, but I have outgrown and miraculously outlived those days.  Now I am more prone to share recipes than booze.  It’s cheaper than buying rounds of Laphroaig single malt for the house, for one thing.  It also seems more responsible than sponsoring drunkenness (as if March 17 needs any help with that) and seems more honorable and appropriate to the memory of a saint.

In addition to being the patron saint of Scotland, he is also the patron saint of fishermen–which is pretty significant.

If you would like to find out a little about this guy and what he did to become a saint, have a go at http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=109

Meanwhile, here is a recipe for the dreaded haggis.

In the old days, there was a corner of the kitchen designated as the “minnet.”  If you were cutting up a sheep, that’s where you tossed all the sheep odds and ends that you didn’t know what to do with–the eyeballs, lungs, liver, windpipe, so on.

Finally, some enterprising chef figured out what to do with all that accumulated sheep crud in the minnet:  chop it up, add some onions, suet, oatmeal, and plenty of pepper, glomp it into the sheep’s stomach, and bake it.  Voila–haggis.

Incidentally, to this day, your granny might tell you, “Och!  Yer in the minnet noo,” meaning “You’ve been a very bad boy.  Go stand in the corner with rest of the offal.”

Anyway, pretty much nobody makes haggis like that anymore, partly for health concerns (largely unfounded) and partly because people just don’t want to eat that kind of thing.  The concept of haggis somehow still holds its charm–maybe because, as Michael Myers (the funny Canadian, not the Halloween goon) once pointed out, all Scottish cuisine seems to be based on a dare.

It turns up in countless variations now, nearly none of which are historically authentic (they do still make it, but you can’t import it into the States because of regulations established by the otherwise admirable USDA–or FDA; I forget which).  You can buy canned haggis at Scottish festivals and shops across North America and points beyond, and chicken- or beef-based haggis.  You can even get vacuum-packed vegan haggis, which to me is about as appropriate as a pork chop at a bar mitzvah.  And the last time I was in Glasgow, I saw a take-out joint called “Haggis-on-a-Stick,” which I can scarcely imagine, given its gloppy nature.  How do you put glop on a stick?  Well, the Glaswegians are plucky, enterprising, and more than willing to separate a tourist from his money, so trust them to figure out how.

Just in case you’d like evidence that I’m not making that up:  http://photograzing.seriouseats.com/2009/08/martins-west-gastropub.html

It looks kind of like a squat corn dog, and I guess you couldn’t very well market something called “sheep-junk-from-the-minnet dog, deep fried and on a stick”.  Although in Glasgow you probably could–I’ve seen them deep fry cheeseburgers and pizza.

I seem to have gotten a little off track which is also not unusual for me.

Okay, here’s:

Haggis & clapshot

“What the heck is clapshot?” you are probably wondering.  Well, it’s fun to say, which ought to suffice.  Lots of names of Scottish foods are like that.  Clapshot.  Spatchcock.  Bog myrtle Fife boar.  Kailyard kenny.  Frushie fool.

Clapshot is just a classic combo:  taters and turnips (also called “tatties and ‘neeps”).

You’ll have to buy a largish haggis, first of all–about 1 3/4 lbs.  I don’t know what kind you can find where you live, but any kind will do.  You’ll also need:

1 lb. peeled turnip or rutabaga

1/2 lb. peeled potatoes

1/2 c. milk

1 garlic clove, smashed around and smooshed with 1 tsp. salt

3/4 c. heavy cream

some finely grated nutmeg and freshly ground black pepper

butter

Fire up your oven to 350ºF.

Let the haggis out of whatever container it’s in (although leave it wrapped in the skin if it came that way).  Wrap the haggis in foil.  Make sure to cover it all around and fold the edges of the foil.  Put it in a roasting pan with about an inch of water and stick it in your preheated oven for thirty or forty minutes.

Meanwhile, slice the potatoes and the turnips/rutabagas nice and thin.  A mandolin or food processor comes in handy at this point.  Put them into a saucepan along with the milk and the garlic, and stir it over a low flame–gently–until the tatties start to fall apart and it all starts to get kind of thick (that’s from the potato starch).

Add the nutmeg, black pepper (I can’t tell you how much–some people like more, some less), and cream.  Stir it–gently, again, but be thorough.  Let it come gradually up to a boil, and then turn the flame down and let it simmer for a few minutes.

Get yourself a roasting pan or a dish of about seven inches, and rub butter all over the inside.  Put the potato mixture in there.  Don’t let it come up too high–it’s going to rise and bubble (not a lot, but some).  Bake it for about an hour.  You ought to be able to slide a knife easily through it, like any other done thing.  The top ought to be nicely browned.  If it gets too brown too soon, cover it with foil and stick it back in the oven.  If it’s cooked through but not brown enough, you can pop it under a broiler for a minute or two.

Remove the haggis from its foil, put it onto a warm serving platter, and glide imperiously and with very good posture into the dining room.  Allow your guests to witness the ceremonial Cutting of the Haggis, ideally done with a dagger, dirk, or saber.  You absolutely must cut through the skin in an X shape–in honor of Saint Andrew, who was crucified on an X-shaped (“saltire”) cross.  Spoon the haggis out onto warm plates along with the clapshot and whatever attending juices may have accumulated.

This pic of haggis & clapshot is a little staged and too-perfect looking–I prefer just slapping it onto a plate, letting the bits fall where they may.

If you are in the mood for something more hip or lady-like, I can hook you up with a recipe for

Haggis, potato, and apple tart in puff pastry

Sound weird?  Don’t panic.  The puff pastry is buttery, flaky, and sumptuous, and  the apple goes surprisingly well with the haggis–it’s tart and sweet, and kind of cuts through the richness of the haggis.  It’s all very nice, so calm down and get on with it.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 lb. peeled potatoes, sliced nice and thin

a clove of garlic, smashed around with a teaspoon or so of salt

some freshly ground nutmeg

14 oz. store-bought puff pastry

11 oz. haggis

2 apples, cored

1 egg, beaten

salt and pepper

Set your oven at 425ºF and mix the potatoes with the garlic, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.

Roll and cut the pastry out into two circles–one about ten inches and the other a little bigger.  Take the smaller dough circle, put it on a baking sheet, and spread about half of the potatoes over it.  Leave a margin of about 3/4″ all the way around.

Cut the haggis open and break it up over the taters.  Slice the apple into nice, thin circles, and spread them all over the haggis.  Top it all with the remaining taters.

Take that beaten egg and brush it all around the un-potatoed margin.  Put the larger pastry circle on top, and pinch the edges together to make a good seal.  Use a fork to tidy it up, if you have to.  Let it sit for about ten minutes.

Brush the top of the dough with more of the beaten egg and bake the tart for about ten minutes–just long enough to set the dough.  Turn the heat down to 400ºF and let it go for another forty minutes or so–it ought to be a lovely golden-brown.  Cut it into wedges, serve it up, and there you go.

It’s a very pretty tart, especially because of the puff pastry.  Overall, it’s pretty light, delicate, and delicious.  I wish I had a picture of it, but I don’t.  Sorry.

Wash it down with a shot of Laphroaig single malt.  I’ll reimburse you in honor of St. Andrew.

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