Veggie haggis

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 theĀ 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:

A Macsween veggie haggis bulging beneath its tight vest.

I don’t know the proper name for the mathematical shape, but I think of it as a squat bulgous oval:

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The veggie haggis: cylindrical with rounded ends, bulging at the frontiers of its wrapping.

The outer sleeve is a vacuum sealed plastic casing:

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Outer packaging of the veggie haggis, vacuum sealed and decorated with a tartan design.

Cooking instructions, ingredients, etc. are helpfully provided on the back:

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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:

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Transparent casing beneath the printed outer packaging of a veggie haggis.

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:

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When it’s piping hot, after about 45 minutes, you find that the previously already bulgous parcel has puffed out even further:

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When I unwrapped the foil I discovered that the inner sleeve was stretched to its limits:

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Veggie haggis fit to burst.

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:

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Hello world!

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:

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Packaging from the neep, a Scottish turnip.

These days, if you order haggis, neeps and tatties in a restaurant, it often appears as a stack like this:

Haggis, Neeps & Tatties - Picture of The Pipers' Tryst Hotel, Glasgow

Photo from The Pipers’ Tryst Hotel courtesy of TripAdvisor

But the traditional way of serving it is to make three little mounds, like this:

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Veggie haggis, neeps and tatties dolloped onto a plate in splodges.

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

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Categories: Healthy eating, Photography, Scotland, Vegan, Vegetarian, Vegetarian haggis | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

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30 thoughts on “Veggie haggis

  1. katiewritesagain

    Hi Lorna
    I have been vegan for several years now and am always interested in anything new. I don’t think I’ll find vegetarian haggis here, but I will look for a recipe for it. Any suggestions? I make things myself, since processed food (even vegetarian) usually has more sodium and chemicals in it than I want. besides, fresh is always tastier. Thanks for a new idea!

  2. It sounds very tasty, Lorna. I’d give it a go, but preferably served to me :) Oh, go on then- I’ll have the mince pies too! :)

    • Naturally enough, much nicer to have someone dish it up for you. I’m very happy to see mince pies in the shops again now. I should really make my own but I’m a sucker for the bought ones.

  3. I would love to try vege haggis. It sounds very good. I wonder if we can get it here in Canada. I’ll check out the recipes you mentioned too.

    • I don’t know how far it’s spread its wings but perhaps you could get it in a specialist shop? Making your own would be an alternative, certainly, I should try it myself some time.

  4. The carnivore version of Haggis sounds quite frightening to me, but your vegetarian plate looks completely delicious. I just love smashed up food!!!

    • It is a bit frightening, the meaty one, but the vegetarian version isn’t at all alarming. I mash all the bits together and make a Mount Fuji type mountain out of it, which is how I think it tastes best.

  5. Their veggie haggis is very good. I prefer the three heaps to the tower thingy. You get more food that way.

  6. I’m not a great haggis lover but I would definitely be tempted to try this veggie version. I love your photos and descriptions! I was slightly alarmed at the idea of it bursting onto the scene, especially in view of its bulgous appearance, but it does look delicious! I might look out for this or perhaps try a recipe sometime. I agree with David, the tower looks a bit small and fussy – good as a starter perhaps – and I’m sure it would go cold quickly before I’d served it! There’s nothing quite so comforting as mashed tatties with something like a nice juicy casserole for dinner.

    • Thank you, Jo. If you like mashed tatties and a juicy casserole I think the veggie haggis might be just the job for you. I was concerned that it could get a bit dry in the oven, but because it was so well sealed in its wrapping it stayed nice and moist. It would be interesting to try making it from scratch, one day I hope to do that. I think I might stick a few nuts in it too, make it a sort of cross between a veggie haggis and a nut roast.

  7. This veggie haggis looks delicious, especially with the neeps and tatties. Yum! Maybe I should tell my neighbor about this. It might breathe some life into his dream of bringing haggis to every Yank household. :0)

    • I think you should definitely tell your neighbour about it, although it doesn’t solve his problem of shifting all that tinned haggis. I don’t know if you can get veggie haggis in a can, I’ve never seen it. Maybe that could be a new venture for him.

  8. what is it exactly the “haggis”, I’ve never heard about it, it looks like a mix of veggies and bread or potatoes?
    But I’m more than happy to hear that you are vegetarian as I am. I’ve been veg only for 4 months, but I’m more than happy :)

    • Brace yourself for this….the traditional haggis is a mixture of minced sheep (or cow) bits – heart, lung, liver, etc., combined with oatmeal, onion and spices and cooked in a sheep’s stomach. Nowadays it’s not very often served in a sheep’s stomach, and the vegetarian version has little in common with the meat one, apart from the shape and method of cooking. I’m delighted to hear that you’re enjoying the vegetarian diet, there’s a lot you can do with vegetables, I don’t miss meat at all.

  9. That looks really tasty! I’m going to see if we can get it in Canada.

  10. I’ll be honest if I thought you ate your Haggis not only veggie but in that posh way – well I would have to consider the unfollow button :D

  11. Where there’s a will, there’s a way! I must say that haggis is something I’ve never tried before. Blood pudding, yes and lots of weird (and sometimes) delicious odd, Asian delicacies. Your Haggis looks like the best kind of alternative and I’m sure it makes it all the more better with those Scottish neeps! Which by the way, is a word I love!!!

    • It’s a great word, neeps, isn’t it? Neeps! Rhymes with sheeps! :-) I would imagine that haggis purists don’t think much of this vegetarian version, but I find it tasty and delicious, and healthily filling. I think you might like the traditional one, as well as the veggie one, I certainly used to enjoy it as a carnivore.

  12. Hello Lorna, about 20 years ago I was visiting Dundee and had heard that there was such a thing as a veggie haggis so I ventured into a butchers shop and asked for one. Suffice to say I got the highest raised eyebrows I’ve ever seen – they were nearly on the ceiling. I vacated the establishment sans comestibles but chuckling heartily to myself.

    Your penultimate photo of the posh haggis brought out the Philistine in me and the only appropriate adjective was ‘poncey’. It just doesn’t seem right, the traditional version is the way it should be.

    BTW, I did eventually find a veggie haggis many years later and jolly tasty it was too.

    • I can imagine that 20 years ago a Dundee butcher wouldn’t be too impressed by that! These days most butchers do sell the veggie one as well as the meat one, but that’s a relatively recent thing, I think. I agree with you about the stacked haggis, it just doesn’t seem right somehow, but it’s something my dad orders in restaurants from time to time and it nearly always comes looking like that. There’s nowt wrong with a good hearty bowl of rustic looking fare. I’m glad you did eventually track down a veggie haggis, and am even more pleased to hear that you enjoyed it.

  13. I love the look of the tower version…didn’t know a vegetarian version is considered true haggis…enjoyed reading this.

    • I’m sure there are plenty of meat eaters who wouldn’t consider the veggie version to be a proper haggis. It’s not really a haggis, I suppose, if by haggis you mean the innards of a sheep cooked in a sheep’s stomach. It is a tasty alternative, though.

  14. It looks a lot like a Tofurky loaf! Sounds pretty tasty, too.

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