"i am haggis, hear me roar..."
haggis: "a scottish dish consisting of a mixture of the minced heart, lungs, and liver of a sheep or calf mixed with suet, onions, oatmeal, and seasonings and boiled in the stomach of the slaughtered animal."
now doesn't that sound good? good like a sharp stick in the eye. i suppose the first question that pops to mind is "why?!! why on earth would you want to veganize what sounds like one of the worst dishes in the world?" why indeed? perhaps a deep-rooted perversity stemming from a too early toilet training related trauma?
but i was intrigued. haggis. what a name! what a face! what a shape! it brings to mind that episode of cook's tour when tony goes to scotland and samples the local haggis. veggies, steel cut oats, herbs, really except for the gory garbage bits, it sounded pretty good. and believe it or not, there are lots of vegan recipes for haggis drifting around out there on the internet. i picked out a likely looking suspect from vegweb and, suffering from a.d.d. and unable to follow directions for more than three lines, i changed a few things. i added garlic, cause i like garlic. i omitted vegetarian "suet" (crisco, margarine, whatever) completely, cause i don't like greasy stuff. i threw in a bit more veggies and some burger crumbles, cause i like them too.
and here is the scary part. i really liked it. a lot.
this haggis is basically a nice whole-grain stuffing-like concoction baked in a casserole dish. the lentils cook down to a nice, creamy, earthy base that really work magic with the woodsy flavor of the mushrooms. the steel cut and rolled oats provide a creamy mouthfeel. the pearl barley perks things up with a slightly chewy and popping textural counterpoint. the burger crumbles (gimme lean sausage was my "crumble" of choice) adds a bit of authenticity. the minced vegetables flavor and color the grains beautifully. the vegemite imparts a really deep down rich and "beefy" note, and the herbs round out the flavor. finally, the lemon, which i added after the cooking (contrary to instructions), really brightened up the dish in a subtle yet crucial way. i imagine the addition of fresh minced parsely after cooking could also bring in a fresh note and some extra prettiness to this homey and homely dish.
the meat eater, after i begged, cajoled, prodded and threatened him with no cookies for a week, finally tasted a tiny bite. "it's surprisingly good", he said. then quickly backtracked once he saw the manical haggis-every-night-for-a-month gleam in my eye, "i mean, it's no treat or anything..." myself, i must disagree. this is a very hearty, tasty and satisfying dish in a rustic, rib-sticking, brutish, peasantish way. i thought it was a treat indeed.
for more information about the infamously mocked and maligned haggis, check out wikipedia. the entry is rife with interesting facts about haggis' history in addition to haggis-related sporting events such as haggis hurling. and don't forget to mark your calendars for burns night (january 25th), an evening to honor scotland's native son and poet, robert burns with a burns supper. from what i gather this is basically an excuse for a bunch of drunken, burns-reciting ne'er do wells, to gather 'round a haggis, make merry and have a "wee-bit-o-dram", as my friend's seventy-something year old scottish aunt used to whisper to us as she pulled out the well-worn flask from the pocket of her tattered housecoat, "ta keep ya' warm".
1/4 cup red lentils
1/4 cup barley
1/4 cup green or brown lentils
3/4 steelcut oats (eg irish oats or pinhead oats)
1/4 cup oatmeal (not instant)
2 teaspoons marmite or vegemite*
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon each (or more to taste): thyme, rosemary, onion powder and sage
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup fresh minced parsley
1-2 carrots, minced
2 cloves garlic
1 onion, minced
2 cups mushrooms, minced
1/4 (or more!) cup scotch whiskey
1 cup veggie burger crumbles of your choice** (i used gimme lean sausage)
2 cups vegetable stock or water
1/2 lemon, juiced
place lentils, barley and steel cut oats in a saucepan and cover with water by about 1/2 inch. simmer for about 20 minutes, covered, adding more water as necessary to prevent scorching. set aside. mince carrots, onion, mushrooms, parsely and garlic, or coarsely chop and whiz a few times in a food processor. throw the cooked grains, minced vegetables, and everything else into a large bowl and mix thorougly. place in a covered casserole dish and bake for 40-60 minutes at 350. check every 20 minutes or so to add more water if necessary.
* vegemite and marmite are both (contrary to urban legend) totally vegan. it has a very strong and salty flavor and i use it often in soups and stews where i want a beefy flavor. a little goes a long way so add it bit by bit. if you cannot find these products locally you may want to use a stronger, darker vegetable broth (i like better than bouillon) and/or some vegetarian worscestire sauce.
**you can omit or replace with equivalent amount of chopped walnuts