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Vegetarian Haggis


Thanks to Rhonda Roaring for sending us this recipe.

This recipe comes from Grassroots café in Glasgow's west end, where I bought my first veggie haggis.

It was on Robert Burns's birthday in 1998. I was a vegetarian living in Scotland and Grassroots was a wee store. I bought my beans and greens there for their quality, and because the tightly packed shop was a magnet for legume-loving Glaswegians (like cute, organic, Scottish girls who attended art school up the road).

My first veggie haggis was a pre-packaged, boil-in-the-bag affair made by a company called Macsween and it converted me forevermore. Its nut loaf-like taste was better than most of the meat haggises I'd eaten growing up in Nova Scotia. The haggis didn't make a regular appearance on the Murdoch dinner table, but I've eaten my share of them over the years.

My granny once tried to smuggle a haggis back from Scotland, but a Canadian customs officer confiscated it. In a moment of madness, she handed him her duty-free bottle of scotch and said, "Well, you may as well have this, too. They go hand in hand!"

Mostly, we ate meat haggis at Robert Burns suppers in the Legion Halls of one-street hamlets across the Annapolis Valley. They weren't reverent or nostalgic events, but rather (like most nights in Nova Scotia) a little ironic and completely shambolic, because even though most of us don't understand a word of Burns' poetry, we understand the spirit of the poet.

The whole point of the night is to salute a guy who loved to dance, wear a kilt, drink scotch (at cheap Legion prices), tell wild stories and eat that majestic Scottish pudding (the haggis).

Haggis is a blood pudding, stuffed with minced sheep's organs, onions, oatmeal and suet (beef fat), then sewn in a sheep's stomach and boiled or baked. The blood from the meat soaks into the oatmeal, mixes with the beef fat and turns the inside a dark brown, richly grainy colour. Now, this description usually turns people off, but think about it - every culture has some version of this kind of tripe-pudding.

The meat version tastes like a meaty, nutty stuffing. It's very rich and you can't eat a lot of it. The meatless version tastes like a nutty stuffing and is much less greasy. In fact, it is actually (and one can't say this of many Scottish foods) good for you. Consequently, you can eat a lot of it.

So much has changed since 1998. I, alas, eat meat once more. The Duncan family who runs Grassroots has expanded the business, opening a café next door and offering vegetarian cooking classes.

This recipe - which has never before been revealed to the public - belonged to the family's grandmother. (Imagine - three generations of Scottish vegetarians!) The combination of oats and nuts gives it the haggis taste, while the garam masala gives it some depth. Sarah Duncan, the youngest generation, decided to share it with Star readers because: "We thought you and many Canadians have the right to know how to make a great haggis."

Grassroot Granny's Vegetarian Haggis

From the Duncan family, who own Grassroots Organic and Café Grassroots (http://www.grassrootsorganic.com ) in Glasgow. For steel-cut oats, try McCann's Irish Oatmeal, from most supermarkets. You can chop the nuts by hand or in a food processor. Haggis is traditionally served with Clapshot (potatoes and rutabaga mashed with butter) and whisky.

1/3 cup steel-cut oats
2-1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 tsp each: sea salt, freshly ground pepper
1 tsp garam masala
1/4 cup drained, canned brown lentils, rinsed
3/4 cup finely chopped, peeled carrots
3/4 cup finely chopped, peeled rutabaga
1/3 cup finely chopped mushrooms
1/3 cup canned red kidney beans, drained, rinsed
1/4 cup butter
2 tbsp peanuts, chopped
3 tbsp almonds, chopped
3 tbsp walnuts, chopped
1 tbsp water

In small saucepan, cook oats as per package instructions. Rinse; reserve.

In large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add garlic, onion, salt, pepper and garam masala. Cook, stirring, until onions soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Add lentils, carrots and rutabaga. Cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add mushrooms. Cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Stir in kidney beans and butter until it melts. Add peanuts, almonds and walnuts. Cook, stirring, until nuts soften slightly but retain crunch. Remove from heat. Stir in reserved oatmeal.

Add water to 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Add haggis mixture. Cook in preheated 350F oven until top is crispy, 35 to 40 minutes.

Turn haggis out into serving bowl. Using fork, break it up, then fluff.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.


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