My friend Alex of Feed Me Like You Mean It loves Burns Night, the annual celebration of the life, works, and loves of Scotland's 18th Century bard, Robert Burns. Burns night falls every January 25th and, in some places, is accompanied by a ritualized supper featuring haggis and haggis stabbing, Burn's poetry, toasts, singing, hand-holding, and, for the lucky, dancing and live music.
We were the lucky. Alex's friend and cohost of the event is a fiddler named Catherine who graced us with her playing throughout the meal and instructed our crew on the finer points of a Ceilidh dance.
Before the dance, however, we ate our ritual Burns meal: Haggis (traditional Scottish dish made from lamb variety meats, oatmeal and herbs and cooked in the stomach of a sheep) , tatties (potatoes) and neeps (turnips) accompanied by plenty of lactofermented vegetables. As a non-meat eater, I was asked to bring the vegetarian Haggis, something I'd never tasted nor experienced before.
I set out to make it two days before the event so that the flavors could marry a bit. This is unnecessary - you can make it and serve it right away, though it does get a bit better with time. While I cooked, my friend Dwayne provided flavor profile feedback - until a few days ago, he's the only friend of mine locally who had any prior experience with haggis. I just tried to make it tasty, and he gave me feedback on texture and spice. In the end the haggis was exactly what I wanted to eat, with different textures and flavor mimicking a 'real' haggis (minus the stomach).
This is a rather ingredient-intensive recipe, but it is quite delicious and worth the effort. It looks remarkably similar to haggis when side-by-side on a plate. It can be made ahead, though I didn't try to freeze it.
Cake and Commerce's Vegetarian Haggis
This serves a large group...12 or more! Cut recipe in half for smaller parties
yield: 5 lbs of Haggisy goodness
- Olive Oil - approximately 1/2 cup
- 2 Medium Onions - finely diced
- 3 Medium Carrots - finely diced
- 6 Cloves of Garlic - minced
- 2 lbs of mushrooms, assorted varieties (I used white button, trumpet, and a matsudake-like mushroom) - mince up boring white mushrooms, coarsely chop interesting ones!
- 2 cups of red wine
- 3 cups of oats, toasted (reduce quantity to 2.5 cups if you are using thick cut oats)
- 1 cup dry red lentils, washed (only substitute lentils or beans without skins)
- 2/3 cup sunflower seeds, toasted (half should be crushed up a bit)
- 1 piece of packaged fried tofu - aka "tofu cutlet" cut into strips
- 10 cups of vegetable stock (recipe to follow)
- 1/2 t sage leaves, dried and ground
- 1 T Thyme leaves, fresh, chopped fine
- 1/2 t Rosemary leaves
- 1/2 t cayenne or Piment D'Espelette
- 1/2 t smoked paprika
- 1/4 C lemon juice or similar (I used Kombucha, but feel free to use sherry vinegar etc)
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Optional: 3 oz cultured butter, to be added at the end
- 3 ea 5" strips Kombu (kelp)
- 2 large carrots, peeled
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 onion, peeled and halved
- 1 rib celery
- peppercorns and bay leaves
Make quick vegetable stock: combine all ingredients except Kombu in a pan and cover with about 10 cups of water. Simmer for 30 minutes. Reduce heat, add kombu and allow to cook - without simmering - for about 10 minutes. Remove Kombu from stock and set aside for another use. Allow stock to simmer for 5 minutes. Strain. Lower heat and keep warm until needed.
Cook Lentils: cover red lentils with hot water. Cook until lentils are soft and water is absorbed, about 25 minutes. Do not season.
Make Haggis Heat 1/2 of the olive oil in a large stock pot with a heavy bottom. When hot, add chopped onions, garlic and carrots and cook until translucent. Set aside in a bowl. Add more oil to pan and when hot enough, add only enough mushrooms to cover the bottom of the pan. Allow to brown without moving mushrooms around pan. Sprinkle a little bit of salt over the top of the mushrooms. Once they start sticking to the pan, stir with a wooden spoon to loosen. Add rest of mushrooms and continue cooking. Sprinkle all spices except fresh thyme over the mushrooms and stir. Stir in the cooked carrots, onions and garlic. Allow mixture to continue cooking. Once mushrooms have given off much of their liquid, stir in wine. Allow wine to cook down and mushrooms too brown slightly. Do not burn!
Add in thyme and lentils and tofu. Stir. Add enough vegetable stock to cover the mushrooms. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, add oats and stir. Reduce heat to a simmer. Stir frequently, making sure mixture does not stick to the bottom, as if it were risotto.
When oats are cooked, stir in sunflower seeds. Check salt. Add salt to taste - don't skimp, you've got a lot of haggis here. Stir in enough acid (kombucha, vinegar, lemon juice) to brighten the flavor and make it pop. Add butter if you plan to make this dish vegetarian rather than vegan. Make sure the dish is not runny like a soup, but not as dry as stuffing. It will gel a bit when cooled, thanks to the oats in the recipe.
When finished, place it in either oiled tins, oiled loaf pans, or a haggis-shaped plastic bag. You could also wrap it in banana leaves (it will steam up well) if you prefer. Bake right away or store in the refrigerator up to 48 hours before serving.
Reheat in an oven in a covered dish and uncover for the last few minutes of baking once heated through, on pan in the oven for a drier haggis, in the tins or molds or on the stove top with more broth or water added.