To most people The Bard probably refers to Shakespeare. But here in Scotland the Bard refers to someone else entirely. Happy Rabbie Burns night!
There are many traditions that go along with the celebration of Burns night, among them, piping in the guests, The Selkirk Grace, the singing of Burns songs, and the ever humorous Toast to the Lassies, but really the center piece for any good Burns Night is, of course, the Haggis.
At a good Burns Supper, the Haggis will be piped in on a silver platter in a procession which includes the piper, chef, the reader of the Address, and should be accompanied by a whiskey bearer. The reader will deliver the Address to the Haggis, complete with the dramatic slicing open there of at “His knife see Rustic-labour dight”. Everyone toasts, eats, sings and are entertained, and the night is finished off with the singing of Auld Lang Syne. A raucous, jubilant, and fitting celebration of the life of Scotland’s national poet.
So in honour of the Bard, today I’m sharing a recipe for vegan haggis. When first thinking about this recipe I was a bit confounded as to how to enclose the haggis’s filling. Many vegetarian haggis recipes suggest that you don’t stuff it into anything, but rather just form it into a roughly haggis shaped blob and bake it. Others still go so far as to suggest acquiring vegetarian sausage casing for the purpose. Neither of these two options seemed quite right to me. First, without some kind of casing I just feel like it’s that much less haggis-like (all a bit ridiculous I know as I’m discussing vegifying what is by nature a very meatish dish), and the second option seemed like a disaster in the making leaving me with images of the kitchen splattered with lentils and barley as I tried to wrestle the stuffing by hand into its mysterious non-meat sourced casing. No, there had to be another answer. Then I saw this incredible recipe by Scottish chef Graham Campbell, where he rolls the filling into savoy cabbage leaves making several small… haggi? (What is the plural of haggis I wonder…) Though it’s all quite Master Chef and fiddly, for me it’s the perfect solution, proclaiming its vegan-ness in its leafy wrapping while still honouring Burns.
Buddy and I had a debate about what Burns would make of vegan haggis. He thinks that he would not have approved (and suggested that the cabbage wrapped haggi look a bit like something from a Ridley Scott film), I am not so sure. Robert Burns, I feel, was a pretty forward thinking fellow. Maybe if he lived now he would be a vegan? We can but imagine…
What ever the case may be, I hope your Burns night is a riotous one, with or without the piper!
Happy Burns night!
Address to a Haggis
Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye worthy o’ a grace
As lang’s my arm.
The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o need,
While thro your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.
His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An cut you up wi ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
The auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect scunner,
Looks down wi sneering, scornfu view
On sic a dinner?
Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll make it whissle;
An legs an arms, an heads will sned,
Like taps o thrissle.
Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer,
Gie her a Haggis.
By Robert Burns
- 1 savoy cabbage
- 50g or 1/4 cup dried green or brown lentils
- 50g or 1/4 cup dried split yellow peas
- 50g or 1/4 cup un-cooked barley
- 1 lrg carrot, finely diced
- 1 lrg brown onion, finely diced
- 125g shitake mushrooms, chopped
- 1 Tbsp oil
- 100g or 1 cup oats
- 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce
- 100mL vegetable stock
- 1 Tbsp ground flax seed
- Cook the barley, peas, and lentils according to the instructions on the packet and set them aside.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots and mushrooms and a good pinch of salt, and cook them, stirring occasionally until the carrots and onions are soft, and most of the water has evaporated from the mushrooms. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Place the ground flax seed into a small bowl with 3 Tbsp of cold water. Mix well and set it in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. (This is sometimes known as a “flax egg” and when it’s ready it will be quite slimy like an egg white. It’s what will bind the filling together.)
- Once all of the above elements are ready, mix the veggies, lentils, peas, and barley together with the oats. Stir in the spices and then the stock and tamari or soy sauce. Stir well and leave it to stand while you prepare the cabbage leaves.
- Set a large pot of salted water over medium high heat. Prepare a large bowl of ice cold water and set it close by.
- Cut the core from the savoy cabbage, discard the very outer leaves and carefully remove 6-8 good, whole leaves.
- Once the water is boiling, gently place the leaves in and leave them to cook for 4 minutes.
- Carefully remove the leaves from the boiling water and place them into the cold water. Leave them for 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, mix the “Flax egg” into the filling and stir until it’s well combined.
- Remove the cabbage leaves from the cold water and pat them dry. Using a sharp knife trim down the thickness of the stalks to make them as flat as possible without cutting through the leaf.
- Working one leaf at a time, lay the leaf down and then place about 2-3 Tbsp of the filling onto the middle of the stalk end. Carefully roll the leaf up as tightly as you can, tucking the sides around the filling so you end up with a fat sausage shape. Place the rolled leaf onto a large square of cling film and roll it quite tightly around the stuffed leaf, twist each end and secure it with a knot. Repeat with the other leaves.
- Set a large potful of water over medium heat. Bring it up to a simmer and then gently place the cling film wrapped stuffed leaves into it. Cover and leave to simmer for 30 minutes.
- Remove the haggis from the water and carefully unwrap them from the cling film. Serve them with vegan gravy and clapshot (mashed potatoes and turnip -tatties and neeps) for the perfect vegan Burns night supper. Don’t forget the Address to a Haggis!