A wee bit of vegan haggis

It’s this time of year that anyone you know who is Scottish, or has some Scottish heritage, or just fancies a mighty fine feast on a cold winters night, celebrates Burn’s night. Held in memory of the poet, Robbie Burns, the evening has many traditions, including piping in the diners (if you happen to know anyone who plays the bagpipes of course!), drinking lots of whiskey and eating haggis.

When I was young, I used to think that haggis was a small furry animal, but actually its a mix of sheep offal mixed with onion, oats and spices, then stuffed in a sheep stomach and simmered in a pot for 3 hours. I have eaten it a couple of times in the past and its rich and seriously filling.

These days, however, being a plant based eater, haggis is generally off the menu, although vegetarian ones are sometimes available in the supermarket. On a recent trip to Edinburgh, however, we stopped at a fabulous vegetarian restaurant called Henderson’s and my husband chose a delicious haggis dish. In fact it was so good, he decided to recreate it at home for a birthday dinner party the other week. Served with mashed tatties and neeps, it was our own little plant based Burns night supper, super tasty and super healthy.

Once made up, the haggis mix does look a little grey and unappealing, despite it’s amazing flavour, and not having any plant versions of sausage skins to hand (are there any?) we decided to wrap it up in some filo pastry to create a haggis parcel. The contrast of the thin, crisp pastry and the soft, slightly claggy texture of the haggis worked fabulously.

Update 2018 – to make this gluten free, it’s delicious baked as it is without the filo pastry. Just pack the mix into a lightly greased pyrex bowl, cover it with foil and bake it in the oven for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 20 minutes, then leave to cool for a couple of minutes before tipping out and serving in chunky slices.

The combination of lentils, kidney beans, mushrooms and oatmeal means this dish is packed with protein and fibre, as well as magnesium, manganese and folate amongst other minerals and vitamins. Serve with mashed potatoes and swede for a nearly authentic plant based Burns night supper.

Vegan haggis (Henderson’s of Edinburgh recipe)
75g chopped mushrooms
75g brown lentils
50g porridge oats
50g cooked kidney beans, chopped
25g non-dairy spread (Vitalite/Pure)
150g grated carrots
150g onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon tamari
1 tablespoon garam masala
salt and pepper
1 packet of filo pastry sheets.
First, soak the brown lentils for 2-3 hours to soften them and soak the oats for 1 hour before you start. When you’re ready, heat the oil in a pan and sauté the onion until soft, followed by the garlic, garam masala and tamari. Season with salt and pepper.

Drain the lentils and add to the pan along with the grated carrot. Simmer on a low heat until the lentils are soft, stirring regularly to prevent sticking. You may need to add a little water to stop the mix drying out. Next add the mushrooms and cook until soft, followed with the kidney beans, the non-dairy spread and some more black pepper. Stir well to combine.

Finally, rinse and drain the oats and stir into the mix. This gives body to the haggis. If you are going to wrap your haggis in filo pastry, leave to cool. Otherwise, you can eat as it is.

Once the mixture is ready, lay out a sheet of filo pastry, leaving the rest covered with a damp tea towel so it doesn’t dry out. Pop a couple of spoonfuls of the haggis mix at one of the short ends of the pastry, fold up the sides and roll into a parcel, sealing the end with a bit of water. You could make square parcels if you prefer – it will still taste delicious! Repeat the process until all the pastry sheets are used up, lay out on lightly greased baking trays and brush the top with some non-dairy milk to help them brown. Pop into a pre-heated oven at 180oC and bake for 15-20 minutes until the pastry is golden and crisp.

Serve with mashed potatoes and turnips or swede and enjoy a great imitation of “the great chieftain o’ the puddin’ race”!

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