Monthly Archive for January, 2008

Grania: Burns Night in Kampala

As you’re probably aware, last Friday was the night that all Scottish people have a reason to do what they do every other Friday night – eat unhealthy food and drink lots of whiskey! Being in east Africa didn’t mean that we were going to miss out on this Scottish celebration, although we did celebrate it a day late!

We decided to share this unique “Cultural” experience with some of the other VSOers over here. The first challenge was to actually get hold of the haggis. The obvious first place to start was the Caledonian Society in Kampala. I got quite a shock when I phoned the head of the society only to hear an accent straight out of Eton on the other end of the phone – I thought English people would have been banned from the society let alone be allowed to run it! Once I got over the shock he confirmed my fears that there is no outlet in Kampala that stocks Haggis. The Caledonian Society (Eton Branch) get the best butcher in Kampala to make theirs to order, and the order had already gone in. Spurred on by my success with making mulled wine at Christmas, I decided that making haggis from the raw ingredients would be just as easy…

After an afternoon spent Google-searching “haggis” and reading through pages of offal and sheep stomach-based recipes, I managed to find one that didn’t seem too complicated and didn’t need a stomach bag. Then, after all that work, the Caledonian Society guy phoned back to say that the butcher had messed up the first order of haggis and had forgotten to add the oats so was making a new batch, but if we wanted haggis without oats there was a batch going cheap. Not wanting to waste all that quality Google time, I decided that I would continue to make my own haggis but would also buy a nearly-but-not-quite haggis as a back-up!

Saturday morning was spent buying the various raw ingredients and then popping into the butcher’s shop to pick up the back-up plan. The employees at Quality Cuts were most bemused by the idea of eating sheep-innards stuffed into a sausage; I think it just confirmed their idea that mzungus are all mad!

Saturday afternoon was spent actually making the haggis. There were various stages when I thought I might be insane: I would NEVER make homemade haggis at home so why oh why did I decide to do it in Africa? The meat haggis eventually came together and I started on the veggie haggis. The veggie haggis smelt delicious, had a good amount of whiskey splashed into it, and I secretly decided that if in doubt I would quietly go veggie that evening!

The next challenge of the day was how to “bake” it. We do not have an oven (and I never realised how much I use the oven, I now have oven-envy!) and we only have a two-ring gas stove. After a bit more googling, we found equivalent steaming-to-baking times and the meat haggis went on. Then with the haggis bubbling away, it was time for the tatties (easy) and the neeps (well, pumpkin as they don’t have turnips and it has the same orange colour). Again the lack of cooking facilities became an issue, and we put our little local charcoal stove into use.  The great thing about being out here is that you become an expert in improvising!

7.30pm came and our five guest arrived. One real Scot (Sarah), another Northern Irish girl (Keira, who lives in Scotland and is therefore an honorary Scot like me!), a couple of random English people (Dan & Dave) and two Dutch volunteers (Marcel & Kiki). We explained to the English and Dutch contingent the reason behind the haggis (and tried not to go into too much detail about what is in a haggis in case we put them off).

Soon it was time to start the proceedings. The bagpipe was warmed up (well, Play was pressed on the mp3 player), lights were dimmed and the haggis was piped in. As the only true Scot in attendance, Sarah started the traditional Address to the Haggis but everyone had to do a verse (Dan, as Master of the House, got to do the stabbing), Kiki and Marcel from Holland did a very good attempt at Burns poetry, but possibly it wasn’t quite word perfect! Once the haggis was addressed, the single malt that has been waiting for an occasion since Heathrow Duty Free was opened and the haggis was toasted!

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My fears of what the homemade haggi would taste like were unfounded, and although I say so myself it was really nice and not too far off the real thing. The veggie one was as good as it smelt so all in all a great success. As you all know the eating isn’t the end of Burns night and Dave had brought a speech that he had heard given at a wedding he went to in Ghana which was used as the “Address to the Lassies”, and all of us girls were educated on the role of a good wife… Let’s just say that Ghana has a while to go before it could be said to be an equal society!

Although we were a day late with our Burns night celebration, I think it was a great success and I am now wondering what other delicacy I can make from scratch that in the UK I would buy ready-made and never dream of making myself…