Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Hearty Haggis in Edinburgh

Legendary Scottish bard Robert Burns celebrated his majestic capital Edinburgh as “Scotia’s darling seat.” The city’s evocative history and grand architecture complement a deep love of ideas and culture, epitomized in its world-famous summer arts festival – but the Scots also prize the wild and rugged in life, and it’s to this older, less rarified Scotland that haggis belongs.

Set back from the rugged shores of the wide Firth of Forth, Scotland’s capital is cradled by hills and crags. The city combines the historic with the chic – grand architecture woven with ancient lanes lined with desirable boutiques. Overseen by its majestic castle, it is a place so old that even the “New Town” is made up of 200-year-old sweeping Georgian crescents.

In the 18th century the Edinburgh edition of Robbie Burns’s Poems was published, including his ode “Address to a Haggis.” Burns saw haggis as a symbol of Scottish life during those harsher times when it was essential to use as much as possible of a slain animal: for food, clothing, and even something to write on. While other cuts could be dried for preservation, internal organs were far more perishable. So they were stuffed into the natural casing of the animal’s stomach – forming “haggis” – and cooked on the spot
Traditionally, haggis takes the minced “pluck” of a sheep (heart, liver, and lungs), mixes it with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, salt, and stock, then stuffs it into a casing – today usually synthetic – to be simmered for around three hours. Its ingredients may not sound appealing, but the end result is richly meaty, with a nutty texture and delicious spicy savoriness.
On Burns Night, January 25, the national dish is served with accompaniments of neeps (boiled turnips or rutabagas) and tatties (mashed potato) – plus Scotch whiskey, of course. But with the growth of nationalist pride in recent years, haggis has become increasingly popular year-round in Scotland, often with intriguing twists. Scotland’s abundance of deer underpins a surge in venison haggis, while the country’s significant Indian population has inspired haggis pakora, spiced with ginger, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, turmeric, and garam masala.
Haggis was a hearty, portable meal for those on the move: whiskey-makers transporting their liquid gold across majestic Highland hills; merchants shipping wares across the choppy channels from the dramatically beautiful islands of Orkney and the Hebrides; and drovers taking animals from the heather-clad moors to the hungry cities. Eating haggis is to join the company of these intrepid travelers – an honor indeed.
The Best Places to Eat Haggis
 The Kitchin expensive 
 Opened in 2006 by husband and wife team Tom and Michaela Kitchin on Edinburgh’s hip Leith waterfront, it took just six months for The Kitchin to gain a Michelin star. The restaurant showcases the best of Scotland’s superb pantry with inventive cooking that nods to fusion without ever overreaching. When haggis appears here, it is transformed from its humble beginnings to a rare dish indeed, served with accompaniments of pickled turnips, foie gras, and crispy potato galette. The range of daily menus provides varied themes and different price levels, from an expansive “Land And Sea Surprise Tasting Menu” or “Celebration Of The Season” to a set lunch hailed by critics as one of the best gourmet deals in Britain.
Seafood temptations might include “spoots” (a Scottish term for razor clams) served with chorizo and lemon confit, or perhaps ravioli of Scrabster squid in a langoustine bisque, or escabeche of Shetland halibut with fennel, orange, and sea buckthorn.
78 Commercial Quay, Leith, Edinburgh; open 12:15–2 PM and 6:30–10 PM Tue–Sat (closes at 10:30 PM Fri–Sat);

 Also in Edinburgh 
 Oloroso (; expensive) combines a glamorous Edinburgh rooftop setting with simple cooking by Tony Singh, who insists on local sourcing. Singh treats the rich earthiness of haggis to a global makeover with dishes such as haggis wonton with plum and whiskey sauce, haggis tortellini with spiked salsa verde, and haggis pakora with whiskeytinged chaat mayonnaise. The duo serving classic Scottish dishes at the Urban Angel (; inexpensive) tweak the classic haggis accompaniments by serving theirs with clapshot mash (potatoes, rutabagas, and chives)
Also in Scotland
 The house haggis – venison or vegetarian – is a hearty perennial on the menu at Glasgow’s Ubiquitous Chip (; moderate), in its fifth decade in the city’s trendy West End. Other Scottish classics include peat-smoked Finnan haddie (haddock), Rothesay black pudding, Ayrshire halibut, and Perthshire wood pigeon
Also in the UK
 London-based haggis-lovers head for Boisdale (; expensive), an upmarket outpost of Caledonian cooking with two spaces: an elegant Regency town house in chic Belgravia and an intimate basement in the heart of the City financial district. The Scottish menu is complemented by a superb whiskey list.
A Day in Edinburgh
 The Scottish capital runs over seven hills, so there are plenty of places to get a good overview of the city and its glorious surroundings
  Immerse yourself in 1,500 years of Scottish history at Edinburgh Castle on its towering rock above Princes Street Gardens. Other high points are Calton Hill, with its smattering of monuments, and Arthur’s Seat, which looks down on Holyrood Palace and the modern architecture of the Scottish Parliament
  Enjoy modern art in imposing 18th-century surrounds at the Dean Gallery and Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, which face each other across sculpture-dotted parkland. Then take a peaceful walk through the Royal Botanic Garden. This verdant paradise includes the largest collection of Chinese plants outside Asia, a highland Heath Garden, and a towering 19th-century Palm House
  See Edinburgh’s dark past at The Real Mary King’s Close, a subterranean warren of 17th-century streets where actors bring long-dead former citizens back to life
What Else to Eat
 Fish underpins Caledonian classics such as Arbroath smokies (salted haddock smoked over beech and oak), which in turn can become part of cullen skink (a soup of smoked haddock, potatoes, and onion). Other seafood enticements include diver-caught scallops, Loch Etive mussels, turbot and lobster from Scrabster, oysters from Skye, and some of the world’s best salmon. There’s also superb meat, such as Aberdeen Angus beef, seaweed-fed Orkney lamb, game birds – like grouse – and superb venison from Scotland’s rugged uplands. The sweet-toothed can enjoy Tipsy Laird (a Scottish sherry trifle) or cranachan (whipped cream, whiskey, honey, raspberries, and toasted oatmeal). Scottish cheeses, such as Arran Brie, whiskey-coated Bishop Kennedy, Gruth Dhu (soft crowdie cheese), and Dunsyre Blue are a delight
 Edinburgh’s international airport has flights from European cities; Glasgow Airport, 60 miles (96 km) away, has flights from long-haul departure points. There are taxis and a bus shuttle service to downtown Edinburgh
 Albyn Town House (inexpensive) is a graceful Victorian house with hearty Scottish breakfasts. Hotel Du Vin (moderate) in the Old Town is a former asylum turned into a calm haven, with a whiskey snug. The Witchery (expensive) is a 16th-century gem by Edinburgh Castle with opulently theatrical suites.

No comments:

Post a Comment