Friday, January 28, 2011

Haggis: As if The Real Thing Isn't Bad Enough

Sweet success: Natalia Ellingham, 9, from Edinburgh, prepares to tuck in to one of her mother Nadia's haggis chocolates. Photograph: Phil Wilkinson via

Nadia Ellingham, an artisan chocolate maker from Edinburgh, originally created the chocolates for a Burns supper. They proved so popular among guests that she has now started selling them commercially.

"Most people screw their faces up or look a bit horrified when I tell them I make haggis chocolates, but once I explain how I make them they understand that it does actually make sense," said Ellingham.

Ellingham does not use actual haggis in the chocolate truffles, but instead blends spices including nutmeg, mace and black pepper, as well as oatmeal, in order to recreate the distinctive flavour of haggis.

Ellingham, 43, has also made a number of other unusual-tasting chocolates for her company, Thinking Chocolate, including sundried tomato and basil, cranberry and chestnut, and thyme and orange truffles. She is also in the midst of creating a box of chocolates that tells the story of what goes into a single cask malt whisky – with each chocolate representing a different stage of the process – in collaboration with the Scottish Malt Whisky Society.

Ellingham set up her business two years ago while on maternity leave after the birth of her second child. She works alone in a baker's kitchen near her Edinburgh home, and makes all of her chocolates to order.

"I'm always thinking about chocolate," she says. "It doesn't matter where I am, I'm always thinking about new ideas and flavours. Chefs like Heston Blumenthal are a real source of inspiration when I'm looking at what to put into a truffle."

Joe McGirr, of the Scottish Malt Whisky Society, which has arranged a number of tastings involving Ellingham's chocolates, said: "Nadia has this amazing flair for getting a picture in her head of these experimental ideas that she wants to push.

"The haggis chocolate was amazing. It really takes a risk – you're expecting it to be awful, but then you put it in your mouth and you get all these fantastic spice flavours that make up a haggis."

Gaby Soutar, the Scotsman's food critic, said: "The initial flavour is very un-haggis-like – sweet, with strong notes of pepper, honey and banana. But it only takes a couple of seconds before – ta-da – you can clearly taste something that's reminiscent of MacSween's finest".


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