Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Arrived at haggis, late.

By way of proving that the year is getting away from me, I find myself eating vegetarian haggis. It's April, and the moment may seem to have passed (unless there's some tradition of eating haggis at Easter that I've missed) - but the whole of 2014 is momentous because it turns out that Macsweens have now been manufacturing vegetarian (vegan, in fact) haggis for thirty years. 

Haggis has never been something I find appealing and I was slightly bemused to have it sitting plumply in my fridge. But thirty years is long enough to ignore it. The fact is that plenty of vegetarians swear by the stuff - it's a really versatile ingredient. 

I'm fairly sure I ran into it shortly after it made its debut in 1984 - that was around the time when I started dabbling with the oddities on sale at my local 'health food shop', Hull Foods. Why didn't I have a go with it? Perhaps because I've never eaten a 'real' haggis - it wasn't something I had previously enjoyed, or felt the need to replace. Perhaps because I couldn't see the potential in it - my cooking skills were only just emerging, I would have been flummoxed. And way back in 1984, we didn't have the internet and all those tasty-looking recipes to encourage a bit of experimentation. 

The packaging has changed, too. As well as the slightly daunting haggis-shaped article, you can now buy the mixture shaped into handy burgers that can be grilled, fried or microwaved. They seemed like the entry-level option, so I took a lead from a serving suggestion and fried one up to boost my beans on toast. It would be interesting to look at the protein quotient in that plateful - wholegrain toast, too much butter, good old beans and a veggie haggis burger that boasts 6.4g of protein per 100g - that's not bad, and if I ditched the butter it would have been vegan. The haggis's main constituent is oats, but there are lentils, kidney beans, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds in there too. 

And how was it? Easy and super-fast to prepare, for a start, with an impressive shelf-life. Taste-wise, the rumours turn out to be justified - there's plenty of savoury flavour and a nice herby background. The herbs aren't detailed on the pack but I think it tasted of sage, with plenty of black pepper. No idea if it tastes like a haggis. Doesn't really figure. The texture, though, I thought could be improved - again, maybe it's the authentic consistency of haggis, but for me, it was rather soft and smooth. Might be the inveterate experimenter coming out in me, but I reckon it would benefit from some chunkiness - some roughly chopped roasted hazelnuts or a handful of toasted pine nuts would really add something nice. Of course, the haggis in either form is there to be played with and once I have had a go with the haggisy-looking version to see if the consistency is the same, there will still be plenty left for me to experiment with. I fancy adding the pine nuts and a blodge of sundried tomato paste, and making some mini sausage rolls with it... well, if a haggis needn't contain meat, surely it needn't be Scottish either...? Maybe it can be a bit sunnier... I'll investigate.



  1. Thanks Jane, your comments about haggis are really interesting. How else might you use it in your recipes. We've tried it raita and pitta-pockets, which is delicious.

    1. Brilliant recipe, thanks for sharing. I hadn't made the connection that the spices in veggie haggis make work well in Indian-style dishes. Co-incidentally I have pittas and plenty of fresh mint, reckon this could be lunch fairly soon! Hampered in my attempt to make haggis sausage rolls by unavailability of pine nuts - hope that's not a widespread issue - what's happening?


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