Haggis, or as this Medieval manuscript calls it hagese, is a very old dish, pre-dating by many hundreds of years this first reference to it and the first recorded recipe of it. And although traditional in Scotland, and the north of England, it is by no means unique to these areas alone – a later Scottish Haggis recipe can be seen here Haggis | Traditional Recipe. This, the oldest Haggis recipe written down, comes from a Medieval book (around 1430 A.D.) of poems on Cookery, now found in the Sloane MS. 1986, where it occurs as an appendix to the “Boke of Curtasye”. It is written in a Northern dialect of the Fifteenth Century, (probably Lancashire) and the author gives us an appropriate English title in the opening of the work: “The Sly3tes of Cure”, or in modern English, “The Art of Cookery”.
This recipe for Haggis is taken from the Medieval manuscript ‘LIBER CURE COCORUM’ written in 1430 A.D. (now bound in the Sloane MS 1986) and the translation is based on Richard Morris’ transcription of 1862.
For hagese. Original Verse
Þe hert of schepe, þe nere þou take,
Þo bowel no3t þou shalle forsake,
On þe turbilen made, and boyled wele,
Hacke alle togeder with gode persole,
Isop, saveray, þou schalle take þen,
And suet of schepe take in, I ken,
With powder of peper and egges gode wonne,
And sethe hit wele and serve hit þenne,
Loke hit be saltyd for gode menne.
In wyntur tyme when erbs ben gode,
Take powder of hom I wot in dede,
As saveray, mynt and tyme, fulle gode,
Isope and sauge I wot by þe rode.
For Haggis – Translation
The heart of sheep, the kidneys you take,
The bowel naught you shall forsake,
In the [vortex or broth] made, and boiled well,
Hack all together with good parsley,
Hyssop, savory, you shall take then,
And suet of sheep take in, I teach,
With powder of pepper and eggs good quantity,
And seethe it well and serve it then,
Look it is salted for good men.
In winter time when [dried] herbs are good,
Take powder of them I know indeed,
As savory, mint and thyme, quite good,
Hyssop and sage I know by the Rood.
Talking to your butcher: there is no way you can make this recipe without first talking to your local butcher, with several days in advance … your butcher needs to be able to source and certify the specialist offal that you are buying from his suppliers, and this needs advance notice. You need to order the lamb paunch (stomach), heart and kidneys, as well as the lamb suet (hard fat found around the vital organs). By ordering it in advance you can also save time and ask your butcher to clean and trim all the offal up and wash out the paunch ready for you to use. Note: You also need all the ingredients at least the day before serving.
Haggis | 1430 Recipe
- 1 lamb’s paunch (stomach)
- 1 lamb’s heart
- 600g lamb kidneys
- 300g lamb (or beef) suet, shredded small
- 6 eggs, beaten
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 1/2 tsp dried parsley
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp dried sage
- 1/2 tsp dried mint
- 1/2 tsp dried hysopp (buy from herbal or online stockists)
- 1/2 tsp dried savory (buy from herbal or online stockists)
Not called for in this recipe but later recipes, such as the ones referenced by Gervais Markham in 1615 call for oats to be included, and historically oats would have been authentically used in Haggis recipes before, during and after this recipe in 1430 A.D. Also the line in the original poem: “On þe turbilen made” could mean just stir the ingredients in the pot, like a whirlpool, but it could also mean a ‘stock’ which in making a Haggis is historically likely.
- 200g of oats
- 300ml lamb (or beef) stock
The Day Before:
1. Prepare the lamb’s paunch (stomach) by washing it out under clean running water, then stirring 3 tablespoons of salt into 2.5 litres of cold water in a clean plastic bucket and soaking the paunch in it overnight.
2. Prepare the lamb kidneys and heart. Wash the kidneys and heart under clean running water and place them in a saucepan, cover with cold water and a tablespoon of sea salt, bring to the boil, turn the heat down and simmer for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes drain the kidneys and heart well and place into a bowl, when cool put them in the fridge to be used the next day.
The Next Day:
Turn the soaked paunch inside out and rinse under cold running water for at least ten minutes, to wash all the salt water off it. Then set aside to drain as you make the filling.
Put all the dried herbs and seasoning (salt and peppercorns) into a pestle and mortar (or spice grinder) and grind to a fine powder – reserve for later.
Shred the lamb suet very small, almost to breadcrumbs (it should shred easily) and reserve in a very large mixing bowl.
Cut the kidneys and heart up very small or coarsely mince. Add this to the large mixing bowl with the suet – (and the oats if using them).
Add the ground herbs and seasoning and then finally stir in the beaten eggs – (and the stock if using it).
Make sure everything in the bowl is mixed thoroughly and no one ingredient is clumping together.
Using a spoon put the Haggis filling into the prepared lamb’s paunch (turned back the right way out). Once put in sew up the opening with linen thread or thin butchers string. Note: The paunch must not be too tightly packed or it will burst.
Put the Haggis in a large saucepan of boiling water and simmer gently for 3 to 4 hours. Using a sharp needle prick the paunch once or twice in the first hour to allow steam to escape and prevent the Haggis from bursting.
After 3 or 4 hours the Haggis is done and can be split open and the filling served.