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Och aye! Axminster does the Highland thing

09:22 17 January 2013

Highland thing: Complete Meats manager Paul Apsey with a tray of locally made haggis. Photo by Chris Carson

Highland thing: Complete Meats manager Paul Apsey with a tray of locally made haggis. Photo by Chris Carson

Archant

Local butchers Complete Meats use a secret recipe to make their version of the famous Scottish haggis

A secret recipe is being used to give a Scottish gourmet dish a little taste of Axminster.

Butchers Complete Meats, of South Street, have been busy preparing dozens of haggis ready for this month’s traditional Burns night celebrations.

Manager Paul Apsey says their version may be made by Sassenachs but it is created with only the finest authentic ingredients.

And since they started producing them several years ago they have become a firm favourite with local residents.

“It’s not just the Scots who buy them,” said Paul. “They are popular with lots of people. We even sell a few at Christmas now.”

A standard 1lb version of the Axminster-made haggis costs £4.99 but they can be purchased in sizes up to 4lbs and there is also a ‘bite-size’ individual portion for £1.25.

Haggis is traditionally eaten by the Scots on Burns Night, each January 25, which celebrates the birthday, in 1759, of Scotland’s most famous poet, Robert Burns.

In its simplest form the celebration involves eating a special meal of haggis, “neeps and tatties” - with which whisky is drunk.

Haggis traditionally contains chopped mutton, including the liver and heart, oatmeal, suet, and spices traditionally encased in sheep’s gut which is boiled before being served with a mixture of vegetables, usually mashed turnips (neeps) and potatoes - “tatties”.

This is sometimes followed by readings from Burns’ poems and the singing of Scottish songs, notably of Burns’ verses set to music such as “The Banks of Doon”.

At larger, more formal gatherings the evening takes on a ceremonial ritual. When the guests are seated for the banquet, a piper pipes in the haggis which is placed on the head table. At this point, the Master of Ceremonies stands up to “address” the haggis, reciting Burns’ celebratory “Ode to the Haggis”, before cutting it with a skean dhu - a Scottish dagger, still traditionally worn with Highland dress - and passing it around to be eaten.

Throughout the proceedings, whisky is drunk in considerable quantities to honour a poet well known for his conviviality.

A verse to the haggis:

The haggis is a vicious breed,

With habits like the sloth,

It builds its nest from Harris Tweed,

And strips of tartan cloth.

It only ventures out at night

And hunts in packs like dogs.

It gives a green & ghastly light

And makes a noise like frogs.

The natives catch them by their tails

To dodge their beating wings

Then fix a clothes peg on their nose

And eat the blooming things.

By J. G. Robinson. Glasgow.

The Haggis

To a visitor coming to Scotland

A number of problems befall

And the aura surrounding the haggis

Is surely the strangest of all.

At first you’re a little suspicious

At some of the stories you get

But suspicion will vanish forever

The moment you’ve actually met.

With a haggis defending it’s litter

It’s wee tartan back to the wall

Emitting it’s war-cry of Crimond

And rolling itself in a ball.

That would, of course be the female

The male is out looking for food

Consisting of heather or whisky

Depending , of course, on it’s mood.

This accounts for it’s worried expression

It’s mottled appearance to match

And also a kind of neurosis

Which makes it a devil to catch

That it’s going to be made into bagpipes

The haggis is certain to know

But what worries it deeply is knowing

Where the Chanter will finally go!

So it hides in the highlands of Scotland

Completely enveloped in peat

Except that it’s always inverted

So all you can see is its feet.

There’s only one method of captive –

(invented by Wallace it’s said)

You tickle it’s toes with a pibrock

And leave it to laugh till it’s dead!

The haggis is thereby undamaged

No bullet holes marring it’s skin

And the poor little thing has died happy

It’s face in a hideous grin.

The female’s then easy to deal with

Provided her mate is done first

Just show her the death in the paper

She’ll almost immediately burst

Which is messy, but really no matter

It’s all to the good when you know

The various uses of haggis

Set out in the couplet below.

The male is converted to bagpipes

The female is boiled in a pot

The children are made into golf balls

And that, dear friends, is the lot.

Anon.

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