A play on the traditional Scottish dish of haggis, neeps and tatties, this haggis shepherd’s pie recipe combines the three key components, including a slow-cooked haggis filling in rich gravy, and a combination of mashed swede (neeps) and potato (tatties) for the topping.
Often described as a ‘savoury pudding’, haggis is Scotland’s national dish as a result of Robert Burns’ poem Address to a Haggis, written in 1786, which begins, “Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!”
The dish is also traditionally eaten on Burns Night, as part of the Burns supper, typically eaten on or around 25th January, the Birthday of Scotland’s national poet. During Burns’ life, haggis was a common dish of the poor, both nourishing and inexpensive – making use of leftover parts of the sheep, which would otherwise be discarded.
Born from necessity, as a way of using inexpensive cuts of meat, the dish is believed to date back almost 600 years, with dishes such as haggis initially invented as a means of cooking quick-spoiling offal near the site of a hunt, without the need to carry an additional vessel.
While the ingredients and preparation don’t sound particularly appealing, haggis is a delicious dish with amiable texture, which may come as a surprise to the offal-phobic. Sheep’s pluck – a mixture of heart, liver and lungs – is typically combined with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, then mixed with stock and encased in the animal’s stomach. Today, most of the haggis found in supermarkets will have an artificial casing, though it’s worth aiming to buy one with a natural casing as it will both cook and taste better. Also look for sheep or lamb haggis, rather than pork – which is used by some producers.
Although it can also be boiled or deep fried, this haggis is wrapped in foil and slowly baked in a roasting tin half filled with water. Once cooked, it’s removed from the casing, roughly mashed and mixed with a rich gravy comprising Scotch whisky and redcurrant jelly. It’s then topped with an optional layer of caramelised onions, which act as a cushion to prevent the topping from becoming soggy, then mashed potatoes and swede, enriched by egg yolks, and finished in the oven. The haggis shepherd’s pie is then best washed down with a dram of single malt Scotch whisky.
- 1.5-2 kg haggis ideally in a natural casing
- 1 kg potatoes
- 1 kg swede
- 3 large onions finely sliced
- 150 ml whisky ideally Scotch
- 150 g butter
- 75 ml double cream
- 3 egg yolks
- Neutral cooking oil
- Sea salt
- White pepper
For the sauce
- 2 onions roughly diced
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tbsp peppercorns
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp plain flour
- 2 l beef stock
- 3 tbsp redcurrant jelly
- Preheat the oven to 160C/Gas 3.
- Tightly wrap the haggis in 3-4 layers of aluminium foil and place in a large roasting tray. Half fill the pan with boiling water, or until the haggis is submerged in around an inch of water.
- Bake in the oven according to the packet instructions, based on weight (around 2.5-3 hours). 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time, make a slit in the haggis and pour in 50ml of whisky.
- While the haggis is cooking, finely slice the onions and add to a large saucepan with 50g butter and a drizzle of cooking oil. Cook over low heat, stirring often, until golden and caramelised. This may take anywhere from 30-45 minutes. Resist the urge to increase the heat or add sugar. Once golden, season with salt and transfer to a bowl. Set aside for later.
- While the onions are caramelising, peel the potatoes and boil whole in generously salted water for 20 minutes, or until a soft enough to mash. Test using a paring knife. Once ready to mash, strain and leave to drain for at least 10-15 minutes. Return to the pan and mash with 50g butter, the cream, salt, and white pepper (to taste). Set aside to cool completely.
- Also prepare the swede by cutting into large chunks and boiling until soft. Strain and leave to drain for 10-15 minutes. Mash with 50g butter and season with salt and white pepper, to taste.
- To make the gravy, add the roughly diced onions to a large, heavy based saucepan with a generous drizzle of neutral cooking oil. Sweat over low heat for 10 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Add the bay leaves, garlic, peppercorns, thyme, sugar, and a tablespoon of flour. Increase the heat and cook for a minute or so, stirring constantly, then pour in the whisky to deglaze. Cook until the whisky has reduced by at least half. Pour in the beef stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes before straining. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if need be, plus white pepper and the redcurrant jelly. Return to a pan and cook over high heat until reduced by around 1/3.
- Once the haggis is cooked, remove from the casing and transfer to a mixing bowl. Ladle in some of the gravy until the haggis has a good shepherd’s pie sauce: meat ratio. Transfer to a clean oven dish and spread out. Leave to cool while you prepare the topping.
- Increase the oven temperature to 200C/Gas 6.
- Mix the cooled mashed potatoes and mashed swede, and add 3 egg yolks. Mix well to incorporate.
- Drape the caramelised onions over the haggis, then top with the mashed potatoes/swede mix and spread to evenly coat the surface. Run a fork along the top of the mash to create a rough surface, which will help the shepherd’s pie topping to become crispy in the oven.
- Place the shepherd’s pie on a baking sheet, to catch any overspill, then transfer to the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until golden and crispy.
- Remove from the oven and portion. Enjoy with a dram of Scotch whisky.