Introducing the national dish of... Sassenachs

Cash-strapped English shoppers have discovered a taste for Scotland's cheap, long-time favourite. But, as Rachel Shields explains, it's hardly healthy eating

Sunday 07 December 2008 01:00 GMT

Take a sheep's heart, its liver, and lungs, mince together with onion, oatmeal, spices, and salt, and boil in the animal's stomach for three hours. It is, of course, haggis, and now, it seems, the English just can't get enough of Scotland's national dish.

UK supermarkets are reporting a surge in the popularity of the dish that poet Robert Burns described as the "Great chieftain o the puddin'-race".

Marks & Spencer has seen a 35 per cent increase in sales of haggis compared with this time last year, while Asda, Waitrose, and Sainsburys have all seen rises of more than 10 per cent.

Retailers believe the boom in haggis sales stems from the ever-tightening purse-strings of British shoppers. At around £1.50 a serving, haggis is a cheap choice and its high fat content makes it filling.

In 2006, the Scottish government expressed reservations about the high levels of salt and fat in their national dish, grouping haggis with burgers and chips on a list of restricted foods which should only be eaten by children under five once a week.

"It is important to remember that you can also eat healthily on a budget. You can get lean cuts of meat for a moderate price," said Dr Elisabeth Weichselbaum, a nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation.

Offal and cheaper cuts of meat have become increasingly popular in recent months, as shoppers try to save money on their food bills. The market analyst Mintel estimates that sales of offal will reach £62m this year, up almost 70 per cent since 2003, a figure boosted by the endorsement of celebrity chefs.

"We do serve offal in my restaurants, but while I like haggis, it's not something I've served, as some of my customers might not like it," said celebrity chef Tom Aikens.

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