A new twist on an auld classic: Vegetarian haggis and cranachan

We recently spent a weekend in Edinburgh and, as is our way, filled in as many of the hours as we could by eating traditional Scottish food. Within half an hour of arriving at our hotel, we’d gone out for a cup of tea and some shortbread, and we continued the mission with whiskey (some within hot toddies, some not) and smoked salmon. However, first on our priority list was that which is automatically associated with all things Scottish: haggis, neeps (turnips, for the uninitiated) and tatties (potatoes).

Up Arthur's Seat
Reversing some of the damage of all that food with a windy walk up Arthur’s Seat.

So it stood to reason that when we reached Scotland on our culinary quest around the world, we’d have to make haggis, neeps and tatties. However, a bit of investigation into what is actually required did put us off a bit. Buying a ready-made haggis was never an option, but equally unappealing was the thought of soaking a sheep’s stomach and then cooking up its windpipe whilst catching any ‘drips’ it may produce. Adding in some lungs and heart and stuffing the whole kit and caboodle into the soaked stomach just made it even more obvious that this wasn’t a game we fancied playing – even for a meat man like Ash. Much as we’re happy to eat it, making it from scratch was a Forth Bridge too far.

However, there are plenty of recipes out there for a vegetarian version of this iconic dish. Now, having made it, we’re actually loath to call it ‘vegetarian haggis’: it doesn’t really resemble its namesake in any way other than for the fact that it’s a load of bits mushed up together and seasoned with spices. But as a nutty, oaty loaf thing, it was a good dinner, even if it does look like a bit of a mess. We both did a charity 6 mile run earlier today and feel as though it’s gone some way towards re-strengthening our aching legs. Plus it has oats in it, so it must be Scottish. And we did, of course, serve with neeps and tatties.

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“Vegetarian Haggis”

Ingredients
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
5 mushrooms, finely chopped
About 500ml vegetable stock
5 tbsp dried red lentils
2 tbsp canned kidney beans, mashed
3 tbsp finely chopped peanuts
2 tbsp finely chopped hazelnuts
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp mixed spice
1 beaten egg
250g oats

Cooking vege haggis

Method
1. Preheat oven to 190C and lightly grease a loaf tin.
2. Saute the onion in the oil in a pan over medium heat for 5 minutes. Mix in carrot and mushroom and continue cooking for 5 minutes.
3. Stir in 250ml stock, lentils, kidney beans, peanuts, hazelnuts, soy sauce, lemon juice, thyme, cayenne pepper and mixed spice. Bring to the boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in oats, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. At this stage it is very likely you will need to add the rest of the stock and perhaps even a little more water to ensure that the oats don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
4. Stir the egg into the pan and transfer the mixture to the prepared loaf tin. Bake for 30 minutes until firm.
Serves 4, served with mashed neeps and tatties.

Vege haggis

Haggis, neeps and tatties, vege-style

For dessert, we were lucky to have some input from Ash’s Auntie Gina (who is Scottish) and mum (who sourced some recipes for us). Cranachan had always been on our agenda but it was a real treat to get hold of a proper Scottish recipe – complete with plenty of whiskey.

Cranachan

Ingredients
50g porridge oats
38g light soft brown sugar
100g cream cheese
2 1/2 tbsp whiskey
140ml double cream, lightly whipped
150g raspberries

Method
1. Preheat a grill. Line a grill pan with foil (very important – we forgot this and it didn’t end well…), scatter over oats and sugar and place under the grill. Cook for 5-8 minutes, keeping a close eye on it and stirring frequently, until golden. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
2. Beat the cream, cheese and whiskey together in a bowl until smooth. Fold in the cooled oat mixture.
3. Fold in raspberries very carefully and spoon into glasses.
Serves 2. Don’t worry if it looks like a mess.

Cranachan

And if the haggis helped to re-strengthen our legs after the run, this dessert definitely helped to replenish every single one of the burnt calories… Yikes.

And thus concludes our culinary journey through the British Isles. Next, we reach uncharted territory as we head across the North Sea into Scandinavia. Scandinavian cuisine is the flavour of the moment in the food world, especially with the success of restaurants like Denmark’s Noma. But we’ve never been to Scandinavia, never really eaten Scandinavian food, and certainly never cooked it (with the exception of one experiment in curing salmon) – it will be an adventure!

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