Nac Mac Vegan: adventures in rabbit food

25/01/2010

Haggis and Tattie Pakoras

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.

28/10/2009

On Haggis

Filed under: Historic — Tags: , , , , , — Feòrag @ 12:28

This is a comment I made back in 2006, which is interesting in its own right.

Vegetarian haggis has been around for at least 100 years, and there is evidence to suggest that the original was veggie – it really is just leftovers plus oatmeal and spices. The oldest example I know of comes from Reform Cookery Book: Up-To-Date Health Cookery for the Twentieth Century by Mrs. Mill, published in 1904. Apart from the butter, which is easily substituted with another fat, the recipe is vegan.

Scotch Haggis.

“Fair fa’ yer honest, sonsy face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin’ race.”

It is to be hoped the shade of Burns will forbear to haunt those who have the temerity to appropriate the sacred name of Haggis for anything innocent of the time-honoured liver and lights which were the sine qua non of the great chieftain. But in Burns’ time people were not haunted by the horrors of trichinae, measly affections, &c., &c. (one must not be too brutally plain spoken, even in what they are avoiding), as we are now, so perhaps this practical age may risk the shade rather than the substance.

For a medium-sized haggis, then, toast a breakfastcupful oatmeal in front of the fire, or in the oven till brown and crisp, but not burnt. Have the same quantity of cooked brown or German lentils, and a half-teacupful onions, chopped up and browned in a little butter. Mix all together and add 4 ozs. chopped vegetable suet, and seasoning necessary of ketchup, black and Jamaica pepper.

It should be fairly moist; if too dry add a little stock, gravy, or extract.

Turn into greased basin and steam at least 3 hours. An almost too realistic
imitation of “liver” is contrived by substituting chopped mushrooms for the lentils. It may also be varied by using crushed shredded wheat biscuit crumbs in place of the oatmeal. Any “remains” will be found very toothsome, if sliced when cold, and toasted or fried.

Interestingly, this recipe is almost identical to modern vegan haggises, which usually involve lentils and kidney beans, plus mushrooms.

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