Thursday, 1 November 2012

Edinburgh Castle and the Haggis


Edinburgh Castle
Author: Kim Traynor
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license
My first trip to Scotland (without a camera, what was I thinking?) was on a work's networking do. Edinburgh was the port of call and the granite city provided me with all the  things I love - history, culture and good food.
I managed to find time to sneak off and take a tour of the city and my first stop was the castle that stands imposingly over the city. Standing on a volcanic rock created some 340 million years ago the castle is a continuation of the fortification of the rock; there are references to a fortress called Din Eidyn in 600BC. Captured in 638 by the Angles it was renamed Edinburgh and around 500 years later David I built a formidable castle on the rock, part of which still stands. Over the centuries the castle was seiged, overtaken by the English and grabbed back by the Scots. 
The Great Hall, Edinburgh Castle
Author: Mike Pennington
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Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license
In 1566 Mary, Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI of Scotland, the future James I of England there but it was his son, Charles I who was to become the last monarch to stay in the castle as he awaited his coronation as King of Scotland in 1633. Later the castle became a garrison and a prison, holding thousands of prisoners during the American War of Independence, the Seven Year War and the Napoleonic Wars and later during the two World Wars. The castle is still used for ceremonial purposes and I was privileged to see some of our young men receiving honours for carrying out their duties as I wound my way through the castle's precincts.
The greyness of the castle disappeared as I came closer to its walls; there is a quiet beauty within its strength. Huge gateways with portcullis, the Mons Meg gun and the Half Moon Battery are all reminders of the castle's history as a defensive post whilst the Crown Square, Royal Palace and Great Hall bring the Royal side to life. The  Great Hall was used for state assemblies and the Queen Anne Building next door housed the kitchens that served it. I wonder how many haggis were served within the Great Hall's walls.


Burns Night haggis
Author: Jonathunder
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons
Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license
Haggis is a savoury dish made from sheep's pluck (heart, lung and livers) minced with oatmeal, suet, onion and spices and traditionally encased in a sheep's stomach. It was these ingredients that had put me off sampling haggis until my first evening in Edinburgh. Back networking with colleagues we were offered a choice of dishes and I decided to bite the bullet and try chicken breast stuffed with haggis, served with neeps and tatties (turnips and potatoes). I am so glad I did. The haggis was beautifully spiced and I could not tell that I was eating what I had previously considered to be unpalatable foodstuffs. It really was delicious. I could understand why Robert Burns had dedicated a poem to this dish and why it is considered Scotland's national dish.

The next day I made my way to what had been described to me as Edinburgh's version of Harrods - least said about that description the better - and to their food hall where I availed myself of six small haggis to try out recipes at home. I made my own version of the chicken stuffed haggis which worked very well and I share with you below. 


Recipe

Serves 2

Ingredients 

1 large chicken breast (at least 175g)
1 small onion, diced
1 tsp thyme
25ml whiskey
30g haggis (out of the skin)
4 slices of prosciutto or serrano ham
2 tbsp vegetable oil

Method
Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
Heat half of the oil over a low heat in an oven proof frying pan and soften the onion and thyme in it for a couple of minutes before adding the whiskey. Cook for a further minute or two. Take off the heat and crumble in the haggis. Put aside to cool.
Cut a pocket into the chicken breast and stuff with the cooled haggis mixture.
Wrap the prosciutto or serrano ham around the breast.
Heat the remaining oil in the pan after wiping it clean and seal the chicken breast over a medium heat. Then put the pan in the oven and continue to cook until the chicken is ready. 

Cut the breast into slices and serve with neeps and tatties, or other seasonal vegetables.

Hints and Tips

A gravy or sauce would go well with the dish, possibly a whiskey based one, but be careful not to overpower the flavour of the chicken and haggis.


Official Edinburgh Castle site http://www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk/



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