Scots sell haggis to Hackney
Between a German sausage stall and a seller offering roast chicken, an intrepid Scot is trying to sell haggis to Hackney.
Since September, Carol Deeney, 25, and her partner Paddy Dwyer, 27, have been wooing locals at Chatsworth Road Market every Sunday with their unusual haggis toasties.
Inspired by her family restaurant in Aberdeen, where she used to help out as a child, Ms Deeney gave up a career in advertising to open her new food stall, Deeney’s Scottish Flavour.
“All my recipes come from my mother and are handed down from my grandmother,” she says.
Although Ms Deeney herself is Scottish, her partner Paddy – who helps out at her stall – is actually Irish.
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“Sometimes he puts on a Scottish accent to tempt customers,” she admits.
Ms Deeney is part of a select group of entrepreneurs across the country who have been sponsored by the Prince’s Trust to set up their own businesses. The trust provides each of them with a mentor to get it up and running.
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The haggis served at her stall is of the traditional high quality Macsween variety – a mixture of oatmeal, beef, and offal, which she sources from Smithfield’s Market along with Scottish bacon. Ms Deeney then makes the haggis toasties by adding caramelised onions, spices and melted cheese, along with a splash of alcohol.
Apart from the toasties – called Macbeths – she also sells vegetarian haggis (Lady Macbeths), smoked haddock chowder known as Cullen Skink and Ham-ish toasties made with Scottish bacon.
Despite its dubious reputation outside Scottish borders, haggis is the biggest hit on Ms Deeney’s menu, especially with American tourists keen to reconnect with their Scottish roots (haggis is still banned in the US because the food safety agency prohibits the use of sheep offal in food products.)
The stall also attracts a large number of Scots. “There are ridiculous numbers of Scots in Hackney. I think they see the Irn Bru – which I also sell – at the front of my stall and it reminds them of their childhood,” says Ms Deeney.
Others buy a haggis toastie simply to try something new. Several times, Ms Deeney says, she has offered to tell customers the ingredients while they’re tucking in – but they tell her: “I’d rather not know what’s in it because it tastes so good!”
As well as running the market stall, Ms Deeney has also catered for one-off events at Battersea Arts Centre and Camden Town Brewery. “Haggis goes very well with beer,” she says.
Despite swearing never to try haggis – the idea of eating offal has never exactly appealed – I was pleasantly surprised by its flavour. And I wasn’t the only one. By the time I’d finished eating my toastie, a queue had already formed.
One haggis virgin who bought a Macbeth that morning was so delighted with it that she’d returned later to ask if she could have a full haggis for a dinner party, said Ms Deeney.
My own verdict? Offal-y good – as long as you don’t think too much about what’s in it.