It’s Burns’ Night, when it is traditional to eat haggis, tatties and neeps while drinking whisky. Instead, I created a dish which represents modern Scotland in all its diverse wonderfulness.
First you need to catch your haggis. The vegetarian haggis (Haggis herbivorii) has been increasing in numbers of late, and researchers think that h. herbivorii makes up 25% of the haggis population in Scotland. They are primarily urban creatures, so one should not be hard to find. They have expanded their territory from their traditional haunts in the corners of wholefood shops, and can often be found lurking in supermarkets. Some have reported success in breeding them in captivity.
I managed to bag the commonest subspecies, the MacSween Vegetarian Haggis (h. herbivorii macsweeniensis) for this recipe, which makes lots.
approx. 500g vegetarian haggis
half a dozen medium potatoes
1½ cups gram flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp ajwain seed
1 tsp dried chillies, or to taste
1½ cups water
Give the seeds and chillies a good bashing in a mortar and pestle then stick them in a food processor or a bowl with the gram flour, baking powder and turmeric. Add about half the water and mix well, then add the rest of the water as you continue mixing until you get a smooth batter. Put it to one side.
Cut the potatoes up into small pieces and parboil about 5 minutes. Drain and allow to cool a bit. Meanwhile, skin your haggis and break the flesh into small pieces – around the size of a hazelnut. Put the pieces in a bowl as you work, and dust them with flour (gram, wheat or rice) to stop them breaking apart too much.
Add the potatoes and mix. The haggis will break up a bit. Don’t worry. Add the batter and mix some more. Do not despair as the haggis breaks up some more. It really doesn’t matter as long as there are some nice lumps.
Heat vegetable oil or vegetable ghee in a deep fat fryer (for the sensible), a frying pan, or a wok. When it is hot, turn the heat down a little – the pakora need to cook fairly slowly about five minutes a side. Put tablespoonsful of the mixture into the oil and deep fry until both sides are a dark orangey brown. Don’t overfill the fryer. Remove when done and drain. Eat as soon as they are cool enough with a dipping sauce — a good cheating pakora dipping sauce is a mixture of mint sauce and tomato ketchup. They will keep quite well and freeze if you don’t eat them all.
If I had been able to get a neep smaller than a beach ball, I would have used some, also parboiled, instead of half the potato.
I challenged myself to go a month without drinking alcohol, so whisky was not on the menu. Instead, I drank some of this rather fine Braes O’ Gowrie Sparkling Elderflower from those nice Cairn O’Mohr people.