Beside the fish is a little dish of "mushy peas," which is exactly what it sounds like.
Brits love their offal, especially certain pieces in certain places. Haggis might seem like a joke to us Americans, a weird food that couldn't possibly be common, but it's truly a staple in Scotland. This plate of haggis (the "neeps-n-tatties" beside it are simply mashed turnips and potatoes) was served to me in a raucous pub in Elgin, which is about as blue-collar a place as there is. I ate the dish a few other times while in the north, and grew to really like it. And I really liked it; not as in "it's weird, but I can tolerate it." As in "I hope they have haggis on the menu!"
It's made from ground sheep's heart, liver and lungs mixed with oatmeal and traditionally cooked in a sheep's stomach. Nowadays, a plastic casing is often substituted for the stomach. The flavor is richened with mace, nutmeg, allspice, marjoram, thyme and plenty of ground pepper. It is so aromatic, so uniquely spiced, that vegetarian versions (using grain instead of organ) tasted undeniably haggis-like. It really is delicious, and definitely isn't a joke.
"Yeah," she said. "Cheese pie." She gave us another funny look. How could we not identify pie?
In the UK, pie can be fruity, meaty, cheesy, round, square, deep, flat or otherwise. It seems that if it's wrapped in pastry, it can be called a pie. This one was mildly cheesy, with a small dose of grassy herbs and sweetish potato inside. It tasted a bit like a knish.
That's not to say that sometimes a pie is a pie just as you'd want it to be. The United Kingdom kept our excellent baked goods streak going. Through Scandinavia, over to Ireland and now here, it's been three months of excellent whole grains, seasonal fruit and powdered sugar. It was the stuff of dreams, of magazine pictorials. And 'stuff' couldn't be a more appropriate word, because there was never a case in which we needed dessert. We were often full on ale before a meal even began. And yet... who can resists?
Once we had 'pies' sort of figured out, there was the whole issue of 'puddings.'
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