Back in about 2002 I ended up living in Edinburgh on expenses for about 6 months. It should've been a brief spell implementing software for the company I worked but we weren't the most organised of organisations and so it turned into a mammoth trip of fine dining discovery for me. Expenses were set at £40 a day but as I flew back Friday afternoon I basically had £200 a week to spend on 4 evening meals. Outside of the lone diner aspect, with the plethora of restaurants Edinburgh has to offer I was in a la carte heaven.
For 6 months I lived off scallops, venison, fillet steak, foie gras, sea bass, local salmon, lobster, wild mushrooms and whatever else I fancied, all washed down with a couple of glasses of fine wine a night. I ate in Iggs , The Witchery , The Tower, Martins, Duck at La Marche Noir, Creelers, The Atrium, Stac Polly and anywhere else that got good reviews in Edinburgh Restaurant guides. At first I was very apprehensive of eating out alone but I refused to look a gift horse in the mouth and resort to hotel restaurants or room service so I bit the bullet, grabbed a book to read and asked if they had any secluded tables. Sometimes, on a busy night or a small restaurant with one big group, I felt like I was at someone else's party but for the most part I was in gastronomic nirvana. Considering I also ate a hotel fry up each morning and a couple of subsidised courses in the office canteen at lunch I don't know how I didn't end up a porker. I guess I should just be thankful I was 25 with the metabolism to go with it.
What a delightful adventure it was.
One restaurant of the aforementioned restaurants called Stac Polly, the reason I recall this tale, did (and still does) have a signature starter of Baked Haggis Filo Parcels with Plum sauce. After Burn's Night reawakened my taste buds to the delight of haggis I decided to give it a go. The haggis and filo bit was easy enough to mimic and after a few searches on Google I put a few recipes together and ended up with the plum sauce recipe below. This time around I didn't have the luxury of a MacSween's Haggis and resorted to a Simon Howie Haggis from Sainsbury, as nice as the parcels were I'll try and stick to the MacSween's from now on. The seasoning was far nicer, more of a pepper kick, and the texture looser, distinct grains of oats and pluck rather than an overworked paste. Even so breaking through the crisp case to the meaty, peppered middle was a delight. The spiced plum sauce was sharp enough to cut through the rich haggis and pastry and the ginger and spices added a welcome dimension.
Baked Haggis Filo Parcels with Plum Sauce
1 haggis, skinned and broken up (vegetarian haggis would work well too)
1 pack filo pastry
100gr butter, melted
60ml cider vinegar
2cm piece ginger, peeled and finely diced
2 TB sugar (I used natural caster sugar)
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1 ts light soy sauce
For the plum sauce stone the plums and roughly chop the flesh.
Put the plum flesh into a saucepan with all the other ingredients, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
Remove the cinnamon and star anise and blend till smooth.
If it's looking a bit thick still then reduce. This makes quite a bit, probably double what you need, so you can put the rest into a sterilised jar.
For the haggis lay out a sheet of filo, brush with butter and put another on top, brushing with butter again and putting on a third sheet. If your filo is like mine the sheets are about 24cm by 12cm so cut in half into two squares. Place a squash ball sized ball of haggis onto each square, bring the sides up and twist into a money bag shape. You should be able to get 10-12, depending on how much haggis you put in each one.
To cook, heat an oven to 200C/180C (fan), place on a baking tray and bake for 20 minutes, till golden brown and heated through.
Serve with the plum sauce. I manged to eat 5 of them, but then I'm a glutton. With something on the side (a salad maybe) 3 per person should suffice.
They'd also be great made a lot smaller, like dim sum size, and served as canapes.