A new chapter in the history of one of Scotland’s national treasures – the haggis - was written today (Friday January 21st) with the launch of a healthier version of the famous dish.
Ahead of Burns Night (January 25th) next week hungry skiers at Glenshee were given the opportunity to sample the all-new haggis. The new version – 70% lower in salt and 35% lower in saturated fat than industry average - was developed by Quality Meat Scotland as part of a project to investigate the potential to lower the salt and saturated fat content of traditional Scots’ favourites.
Former Miss Scotland and Miss UK 2010, Katharine Brown, who is Healthy Eating Ambassador for QMS, served up the tasty haggis samples to skiers at Glenshee Ski Resort which is attracting daily crowds of around 500 skiers.
The recipe has been created in a project to investigate the potential to lower the salt and saturated fat content of eight traditional Scots favourites – including black pudding, sausages and bacon - while retaining the flavour that makes the products so popular.
The £40,000 project, match-funded by Scottish Enterprise, saw Quality Meat Scotland working with seven different meat producers and the Food Innovation team at University of Abertay Dundee who rose to the challenge of developing the healthier formulations.
Wishaw-based butcher James Chapman was also involved in the project trials with one of the main challenges being adjusting pepper and other seasoning to maintain taste given the reduction in salt content. The product also involved the use of liver instead of lungs, a traditional haggis ingredient, producing a richer product which requires a good balance of seasoning.
The healthier version of traditional haggis is now being adopted by leading manufacturers including Glasgow-based Charcuterie, which produced the haggis sampled by skiers today.
Andy McGowan, Head of Industry Development with Quality Meat Scotland, said a major challenge of the project had been the need to retain the flavour which the Scottish favourites are famed for.
“A key objective from the outset of this project was the creation of a range of product formulations which would meet the nutrition specifications required by the public sector supplying venues such as schools and hospitals,” said Mr McGowan.
“Getting the formulations right has taken considerable time and has been very challenging but it has also been incredibly rewarding,” said Mr McGowan.
Haggis is proving more popular than ever in the UK with sales for 2009 worth £8.8 million, an increase of around 19% on 2008 figures. And, according to Douglas Scott, chief executive of the Scottish Federation of Meat Traders Association, it looks like the trend in popularity is continuing.
“Haggis is now incredibly popular in an ever-more diverse range of serving possibilities – from haggis, neeps and tattie towers as a starter to haggis pakora and Burns Truffles which are burgers with haggis in the centre.
“But of course the traditional serving as a main course with ‘neeps and tatties’ is also still very popular and butchers around the country will be busy over the next few weeks providing customers with advice on how to cook haggis for Burns Night.”
The biggest haggis cooking faux pas is, according to Mr Scott, boiling the haggis rather than simmering and his top tip is to wrap the haggis in tinfoil before immersing in water to cook to ensure that, should it burst out of its case disaster will be adverted!
Dr Andrew Allsebrook, food science lecturer at the University of Abertay Dundee, said: "Healthier eating is a growing concern for people right across Scotland, so it's great to be able to use scientific techniques to help cuts levels of salt and saturated fat in some of the nation's favourite foods without affecting their great taste.
"This project builds on previous successes for Food Innovation at Abertay and Quality Meat Scotland, including making bacon, sausages and pies with a healthier balance of ingredients. With Burns Night coming up, a healthier future for haggis is a very exciting prospect indeed!"