On the 25th of January, Scottish people around the world gather to celebrate Burns Night. This is one of my favorite Scottish holidays because it is so quirky and fun. The night celebrates the birth of the great poet and musician, Robert Burns (or “Rabbie” Burns as he is known across the pond). Burns is known as the Scottish Shakespeare, and if you’ve ever sang “Auld Lang Syne,” you know at least one of his poems.
I love Robert Burns. In addition to being a fantastic poet, he was a fascinating human being: rebel teenager, serious drinker, and all-around ladies man (he had 12 kids from 4 women). Most of all, he wrote his poems in Scots (a Scottish dialect of English that has its own unique vocabulary) at a time when anything Scottish was considered barbaric and lowly. He elevated Scottish culture and language into a proud form of art, and to that we raise our haggis.
Which brings me to vegan haggis. You might be thinking, VEGAN haggis? Why?! Well, let me explain by telling you exactly what the traditional version of the Scottish national food includes: a sheep and/or cow’s heart, liver, kidney, and “lights” (aka, intestines) boiled with oatmeal in a sheep’s stomach, lung, or bladder. Yum, yum. You can’t say the Scots weren’t economical.
The problem is, Rabbie Burns LOVED haggis. He even wrote a poem about it, calling haggis the “Great Chieftain o’ the Pudding Race.” On Burns Night, it is tradition to recite that poem as the host presents the main dish with all sorts of pomp and circumstance.
Now, I have to assume that even the meat lovers out there don’t want to get that intimate with all those organ meats. If you want to celebrate Burns Night without someone else’s stomach in your stomach, try this vegan haggis recipe!
Easy to put together, full of hearty vegetables and protein from the lentils, and best of all, no intestines! What more could you ask for?
Burns Night Vegan Haggis
½ cup green lentils
½ cup pearl barley
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 large carrots, finely chopped
8 oz mushrooms, finely chopped
½ tsp allspice
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 cup rolled oats
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 cups vegetable stock
2 tsp molasses
Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 F
- Grease a round baking dish or bread pan (like you’re making meatloaf), and set aside.
- Put lentils and barley into a large pot, with enough water to generously cover everything by a few inches. Pop on the lid, and bring to a boil, reduce to simmer for about 30 minutes until the lentils and barley are tender. Drain any excess water if necessary, and set aside.
- Meanwhile, in a large frying pan or skillet, heat the olive oil over a medium heat, Add the onion and carrot, and cook for about 5 minutes until beginning to brown. Stir in the mushrooms, and spices and cook for about 3 more minutes until the mushrooms start releasing their liquid. Next, add the oats, Worcestershire, stock, and molasses. Bring the pan to a boil, and reduce to simmer for about ten minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the mixture is thickened. Season generously with black pepper and salt, and stir in the cooked lentils and barley.
- Tip the mixture and pat down into the greased baking dish or bread pan, and cover the top with foil. Bake for 30 minutes, remove the foil and bake for 30 minutes more until the haggis is cooked through and firm. Carefully tip out onto a plate and cut into wedges.
Neeps and Tatties (turnips and potatoes), and a cold pint! Also, make sure to stop by your local library before your Burns Night dinner to checkout a book of his poems to read aloud with your guests!
Happy Burns Night!