Haggis may contain nutmeg, mace and coriander

With Burn’s Night fast approaching and the Haggis sleeping quietly in the fridge you might want to consider whether the supper is safe for you and how to create an allergy safe meal of haggis, neeps and tatties.

A Burns supper is a celebration of the life and poetry of the poet Robert Burns, author of many Scots poems and one of my favourites, just because of the language and atmosphere his poems create. The suppers are normally held on or near the poet’s birthday, 25 January, which is tonight, so armed with a new kilt and my book or Rabbie Barns poems I am ready for anything.

However, when eating out at a friend’s houses, especially where alcohol and celebrations are involved, it’s really important to be prepared, speak to your host beforehand and be completely sure of what your eating before you start on the champagne and whisky!

We discovered that haggis can contain an innocent ingredient listing ‘spices’. Spices? What does that mean? Why don’t these get listed out? If for no other reason but that anyone can decide whether they might enjoy the taste, as well as those of you with allergies to spices. These are rarely explained in the ingredients list and may include nutmeg, mace and coriander, to name just a few; all spices known to cause allergic reactions in the unlucky few. So I suggest always contacting the manufacturer to clarify. I have found most companies very helpful.

Some Haggis also seem to contain dairy, which is certainly not in the traditional Scottish recipes!

Nutmeg isn’t actually a nut so not all nut allergic people are allergic to Nutmeg. Nutmeg and mace are from the same plant so if you are allergic to one you should probably avoid them both.

You could make your own haggis though this would not be for the faint-hearted. If you are feeling brave check out this dairy, nutmeg, mace and coriander free haggis recipe from the Food Network.

It’s not easy to find haggis without the dreaded ‘spices’ label which leaves too many unanswered questions and the need to contact the company in question. Most, after checking, do contain coriander (why?) and nutmeg and mace – this confuses me too as it makes me think of Christmassy tastes. However I did hear back from ‘Simon Howie Foods‘, their haggis, which are all totally free-from dairy, nuts, coriander, celery, tomato, nutmeg and mace said:

“Thank you for your email dated 23rd January enquiring about the spices we use in our haggis. You will be happy to hear that there is neither celery nor coriander; in fact, we only use pepper and pimento spices and there is also dried onion. Please note that this is true for both our original haggis in 454g bags and our newly launched Wee Haggis. If there is any further information you require please don’t hesitate to ask.”

What a lovely, succint and swift reply and one with the right answer too!

Ingredients include: (but please always check and read the label) Lamb lungs, Haggis seasoning mix: oatmeal, dried onions, barley, salt, spices, E150 colour) water, beef fat, beef liver, beef heart.

Please note these contain barley so would not be suitable for a gluten free or coeliac diet.

So get down to your local supermarket and possibly other retailers and get yourself some haggis for Burns Night. If you live in Scotland you can buy at their shop. Check out http://www.thescottishbutcher.com/ to see their other products which might be suitable for you.

For information on stockists: “Sainsbury’s Superstores are all stocking our Original Haggis and they stock it throughout the year as well. The larger Tesco, Morrison’s and Asda stores have been taking stock of our Haggis in the run up to Burns Night today although I believe the last orders left us yesterday and so after the weekend they will not be receiving any more stock.”

Handling dinner invitations safely

My friends have been great about this Burn’s Night Supper. I know I am a nightmare guest. But together we have gone through the whole planned menu and I am taking along some of my safe milk and spread to add to the neeps and tatties. I will either have some freefrom Haggis if such can be purloined in time or some Scottish smoked salmon instead. I would be more than happy with either. Offering to help out the cook and host is also a great way of keeping some control. You can make sure that any food not suitable for you is kept separate and that your ‘special’ meal is plated safely.

I have also offered to take a cake for afters. This also gives me control, so I know it’s safe for me because I made it, and hopefully, it will be so tasty that noone else will be able to tell the difference!

The Selkirk Grace

And here, just a taste of the poetry that will be in store tonight as well.

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae let the Lord be thankit.

Which makes me think of an allergy version of this poem, which goes something like this…

Some hae allergies and canna eat,
And none could eat that want it;
So we must check, then we can eat,
And sae Simon Howie Foods be thankit.

Is anyone else planning to celebrate Burns Night? How are you making sure you and your family stay safe?

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About Ruth

Ruth works freelance as a copywriter and writes the What Allergy blog to share information with people who have allergies, eczema, asthma and food intolerances. http://www.whatallergy.com was voted in the top 5 allergy blogs and Ruth also judges regularly for the FreeFrom Food Awards and FreeFrom Skincare Awards. She also won the Foods You Can People's choice Best FreeFrom blogger award 2014.

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