As you may be aware, there is a traditional Scottish dish called haggis.
In my meat eating days I used to enjoy a bit of haggis, with mashed neeps (turnip) and tatties (potatoes).
These days, thanks to the Scottish haggis manufacturing company, Macsween, I enjoy the veggie version just as much as I ever enjoyed the meat one.
The veggie version burst onto the scene in 1984, when John Macsween created it to celebrate the opening of the Scottish Poetry Library.
To digress a little, the Scottish Poetry Library has some interesting articles on its website, including a section for people who are new to poetry. Among other things, there’s a link to a document containing 10 points to consider when reading a poem. Worth a peek if the subject interests you.
Getting back to the haggis, here’s what a Macsween vegetarian haggis looks like:
I don’t know the proper name for the mathematical shape, but I think of it as a squat bulgous oval:
The outer sleeve is a vacuum sealed plastic casing:
Cooking instructions, ingredients, etc. are helpfully provided on the back:
However you choose to cook it – and you have the option of conventional or microwave oven – you need to take off the printed outer sleeve first.
This reveals a transparent sleeve beneath, sealed at the ends with metal clips:
If you’re cooking it in a microwave oven you need to take this casing off too, and then chop the haggis up and stick it in a bowl with a lid before zapping it with microwaves.
This is my usual method of cooking, since it’s quick, easy and energy efficient, but today it so happened that the oven was still hot from baking scones beforehand, so I cooked it in the oven instead. When heating it this way, you leave the inner sleeve on, wrap it all up in foil and stick it in a baking tray with some water in it:
When it’s piping hot, after about 45 minutes, you find that the previously already bulgous parcel has puffed out even further:
When I unwrapped the foil I discovered that the inner sleeve was stretched to its limits:
The build up of pressure inside was such that when I went to slice it open, as soon as the knife’s tip had penetrated the casing, the haggis began making a break for freedom:
One of the things I find a little stressful about preparing haggis, neeps and tatties, is that several things need to be done at the last minute: opening up and dishing out the haggis, and mashing and serving both neeps and tatties.
Each constituent part has the unfortunate tendency to lose heat quite rapidly, so it’s tricky to get it all dished out while everything’s still nice and hot. (If you have a little helper who can take care of the veggies while you deal with the haggis, or vice versa, I would recommend making use of them.)
Incidentally, I noticed today that my local supermarket identifies the turnip by its Scottish name, rather than the more usual English term:
These days, if you order haggis, neeps and tatties in a restaurant, it often appears as a stack like this:
But the traditional way of serving it is to make three little mounds, like this:
As well as oats and lentils, which are the main ingredients of veggie haggis, Macsween’s haggis includes kidney beans, mushrooms, onions, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.
According to their website, 1 in every 4 Macsween’s haggis sold is a vegetarian one. From what I can gather from various sources of information, between 2% and 6% of UK citizens are vegetarian, and yet 25% of the haggis sold by Macsween is of the non-meat variety.
What I know for a fact is that veggie haggis is enjoyed by veggies and carnivores alike, and it certainly makes for a filling and wholesome luncheon.
If you follow it with mince pies and cream you will almost certainly want to take yourself off for a little afternoon nap…zzzzzzzzzzz