From today at 3pm till Sunday at 4:30pm, the Crazy Bastard Sauce Kitchen & Shop on Weserstrasse is going full Scottish.
To celebrate Burns weekend, The Kilted Haggis will be taking over the kitchen and offering Scottish specialities including the infamous Haggis. In the next few paragraphs I’ll explain to you exactly why you need to go and try it.
Local delicacies that make your stomach churn… well, that Icelandic rotten shark thing can fuck right off. That bird’s nest soup made from bird spit? In fact, anything from China gets instantly shortlisted to the ‘why did people even bother trying that?’ file. But haggis? Oh no, my friend. Haggis does not belong here.
I’ve only had haggis a few times in my life, always around this time of year. Why? Because the 25th of January is Burns Night, the Scottish festival celebrating the birth of the Bard, Robert Burns, Scotland’s most celebrated poet. And on Burns Night, you eat Haggis served with Neeps and Tatties (mashed swede and potatoes), drink scotch, and cheer the man and his poetry.
The idea of sheep’s heart, lungs and liver ground up and stuffed into a stomach, well, discourages you from stuffing anything into your stomach. But fight that feeling, drink a scotch whisky for courage and dig a fork into that delicious brown mush. The flavour’s not too intense. It’s not challenging or hard work to appreciate haggis. It’s not some pickled fish or hundred-year-old egg. In fact, it’s probably not much different from the food you already love.
Haggis is savoury, homely, and strangely familiar. Really well seasoned with pepper, nutmeg and mace, making the flavour complex, and that soft, mushy and warm texture the same as all your favourite meals as a kid (regardless of where you grew up). Haggis is one foodstuff I actually crave. Every few months I think ‘I really want some haggis’. This is especially miraculous considering I’ve only tried it perhaps three times in my life.
I spoke to Fraser McCabe, chef at The Kilted Haggis, about this hallowed foodstuff:
A lot of people are squeamish when it comes to haggis. What do you say to these people?
Have you seen what’s in a bratwurst?! “Ear holes, eye holes and arse holes” to quote the late, great Caroline Aherne!
What reactions have you had from people when they’ve found out what haggis is?
It is a pretty even split between delight and horror.
How would you describe the taste?
Can you think of anything it’s like?
Every time we do a market we meet someone who compares it to something from their home town. Grützwurst and Blutwurst are the two most common comparisons, although both are from pigs where Haggis is lamb and we don’t use blood.
How do Berliners take to haggis?
It’s definitely a hard sell. We don’t do crepes or currywurst, but the majority of our customers make a point of coming back to tell us how much they enjoyed it. It’s a great feeling.
What’s the one thing that makes a haggis a great haggis?
It’s personal. Nostalgia plays a big part. We make our Haggis to taste like the one our local butcher made when I was a wee laddie. It’s also all about balance. The blend of spices has to be perfect and the amount of oats is crucial.
Did you struggle to find any of the ingredients in Berlin? And are you using real stomachs?
It took a bit of time to source all of the ingredients in the quantities we need them but they are all readily available here.
The stomach is the traditional casing for Haggis but it is not ever eaten. We don’t use them because they only hold 6-8 portions, which is perfect for home but not on such a large scale as this. The ceremonial Puddin at the Burns Night will be in a stomach though.
How long does it take to make a haggis?
Haggis is a fairly time consuming process. At home it could take 3-4 hours. We have found ourselves making Haggis over a 12 hour night shift in preparation for an event before.
How do you make a vegetarian alternative to haggis?
Our Veggie Haggis is made in the same way as our traditional version, using brown lentils in place of the pluck.
What does Burns Night mean to you? And how is it different celebrating it in Berlin?
It’s a highlight in the social calendar for us. It’s a chance to get together and celebrate our rich culture, history and food. In Berlin there are quite a few Scots. Although there are fewer Burns Suppers, we still celebrate in exactly the same way.
How often does the average Scot actually eat haggis? Is it only Burns Night?
A lot of people in Scotland may only eat it for Burns Night, others more frequently. Haggis is also served in most Fish and Chips shops, battered and deep fried with chips. My family had haggis for tea fairly regularly.
What’s your favorite whisky to drink on Burns Night?
There is no specific whisky associated with Burns Night, everyone has their own preference. I prefer the peated whiskies from Islay and the Western Isles like Bowmore, Talisker and Jura.
What other Burns Night traditions are there that we can look forward to?
The highlight of any Burns Supper is the presentation of the haggis. It is paraded out from the kitchen and sliced open in the middle of Robert Burns’ most famous poem “Address to a Haggis”. In addition, there will be songs and poems written by Burns being performed throughout the night by guest speakers and impromptu performances by anyone brave enough.
The Kilted Haggis started last year by introducing Scottish food to the Karnival der Kulturen. Since then they have entered the street food scene and have been bringing their haggis to many events around Berlin. Next month they will be doing deep fried haggis as part of a Fish and Chips pop up. Follow them on Facebook for more information.
CBS Kitchen & Shop Burns Weekend
Friday 27th 3pm-9pm
Saturday 28th 3pm-9pm
Sunday 29th 3pm-4:30pm (then their sold-out Burns Supper)