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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A VEGAN ROBBIE BURNS' DAY SUPPER

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I've attended only one formal Burns' Supper, in honor of the immortal Scots bard, oh, about 40 years ago (I remember because I was pregnant with my youngest daughter, Justine). My late husband, Wayne Clark, was working with a bunch of "Geordies" from northern England and they invited us to the dinner. These folks were so much fun, kept me in stitches all night.  I wasn't drinking (can't handle hard liquor anyway, even when NOT pregnant!) but, boy, could they drink! It was a really enjoyable evening, despite the elderly band .(I was all of about 23, but they were really pretty elderly.) There was the ceremony of piping in the haggis, which I actually didn't think it tasted too bad--kind of like a bland meat loaf (this was pre-vegan or even vegetarian days.). 

Years later, here on Denman, I tasted haggis again at a friend's house. There was memorable for the moment when one young lady of about 7 put some haggis in her mouth, promptly spit it out and deposited it on the first available receptacle, which happened to be my husband's plate!

In England and Scotland you can actually buy vegan haggis at butcher shops, but here in North America we have to make our own, as far as I know. With my, albeit limited, taste memories, and some knowledge of the ingredients, a few years ago I headed into the kitchen to develop a vegan haggis recipe (I do have some Scots blood on my maternal grandmother's side), for vegans of the Scots persuasion, or Scots of the vegan persuasion. The recipe is in my new book World Vegan Feast. (BTW, if you don't know what a haggis is or how it is made or what it is made from, see this page but, be warned, it isn't pretty!)

I use some oatmeal, of course--it's traditional-- but also potato, which is not, but it is common in Scottish cooking. I tried it originally with ground seitan, then with textured soy protein, then with vegan "hamburger crumbles". It works with all of them. You don't want it too spicy, but I find that vegan foods often need more seasoning, so I use plenty of onion and some traditional spices. I make it in an authentic way called “pot haggis”, which means that it is formed in a bowl or pudding basin, packed into a bowl and steamed. You can wrap it in a cloth first, like a real savory pudding, if you like. It's actually very tasty, especially with some vegan gravy.  Here are some photos from various times I've made haggis:

                              Using a traditional British pudding basin

Steaming it wrapped in cloth

We like to celebrate Robbie Burns' Day every year on January 25th-- my husband is only half Irish, after all-- his mother was the only one of her siblings not born in Scotland.  We have the vegan haggis, of course, with gravy. For the rest of the meal, it's traditional to have Scotch whiskey, of course (I don't like Scotch, but DH enjoys it now and then) and Cock-a-Leekie Soup (a chicken and leek soup) to start, but a potato and leek soup is a great vegan alternative.

Tatties'n'neeps (mashed potatoes combined with mashed turnips) are the traditional accompanying dish. I like to roast the turnips  in the oven first and then mash them into the potatoes-- the turnips have so much more flavor that way-- or even just serve mashed potatoes accompanied by roasted turnips, usually roasted with parsnips, carrots and onions.



For dessert, a gorgeous sherry trifle called "Typsy Laird" is traditional and there is also a recipe for this in World Vegan Feast, including the vegan sponge cake used in this delectable dessert



Vegan Sponge Cake baked in a tube pan


Vegan Sponge Cake baked in layer cake pans

THE FORMAT FOR A BURNS SUPPER

Chairperson's opening address:

A few welcoming words start the evening and the meal commences with the Selkirk Grace.
(Vegans can  adopt another traditional Scottish Grace without all the references to meat, such as this one:

"Grace be here, and grace be there,
And grace be round the table;
Let ilka ane take up their spoon
And eat as muckle’s they’re able.")


The company are asked to stand to receive the haggis. A piper then leads the chef, carrying the haggis to the top table, while the guests accompany them with a slow handclap. The chairman or invited guest then recites Burns' famous poem To A Haggis (translation included), with great enthusiasm. (My friend Fireweed can read Burns' To a Haggis in its original form (quite a feat and she does it beautifully!), in translation, and also in a veganized translation, clever girl.  I'll have to ask her transcribe that for next year's post.

When the person reciting reaches the line "an cut you up wi' ready slight", he cuts open the haggis with a sharp knife.  It's customary for the company to applaud the speaker then stand and toast the haggis with a glass of whisky. 

(An aside: Reading To a Haggis reminds me of an incident when my stepson Sean stopped in Aberdeen, Scotland after serving for a few weeks on a Dutch tall ship where no one would speak English to him. He thought, "Finally, they speak Englush here!" No such luck-- he couldn't understand a word they said! The Aberdeen brogue was like another foreign language.)

I hope this inspires you to celebrate with a Burns' Supper, if not tomorrow, then next year on January 25th.

PS: Another day when haggis is often served is St. Andrew's Day (patron saint of Scotland), November 30th.  I have even read of "Haggis Puffs" being served-- I assume that refers to the haggis mixture being baked in puff pastry.

Cheers!



4 comments:

Carrie™ said...

Bless you Bryanna! Like I needed any excuse to get your new book. But if I did, this would be it. My husband is first generation Canadian. His father arrived from Glasgow as a young man, so Robbie Burns Day gets a fair bit of attention in our house. I tried to make veggie haggis once and it was just barely OK. I've bought it canned and it was tasty enough, but I'd like to be able to make it from scratch. I like both of the methods you pictured here. My husband says his Gran used to make haggis throughout the year, but it was basically just the filling in a casserole dish; less formal, but all the taste. He buys a little haggis at the Scottish shop in town and I have my canned haggis with all the fixin's....but next year, I'm making yours!

Connie Fletcher said...

Who knew there would be such pomp and circumstance?? Thank you for the sociology lesson (I found that entirely fastinating) as well as the lovely (as usual) recipes. Really...thank you for all you do.. I will probably never make evena vegan haggis, but the rest of the meal.. definetely will be gracing my table.

Anonymous said...

I ate haggis in Scotland once, in my pre-vegan days. I was surprised at how peppery it was--very hot and spicy, way more pepper than I was used to eating in a meatloaf. It was at a hiking center, and everyone else was either English or Scottish. No one commented on the amount of pepper so I assumed that is how it was supposed to be.

Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

Anonymous, I guess that chef liked pepper! The ones I tasted were quite bland.