January 25 – Burns Night in Scotland

Robert Burns

Robert Burns

Last year at this time we ran a post on the Scottish custom of eating haggis in celebration of the birthday of Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet. Haggis, you may recall, is usually described as a “savory pudding” which contains sheep’s guts (heart, liver and lungs) minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, stock, and then encased in the animal’s stomach and simmered for approximately three hours. It is traditionally served with turnips and potatoes — or neeps and tatties, in Scots slang.

A haggis on display at an Edinburgh store

A haggis on display at an Edinburgh store

The meal is accompanied by Robert Burns’s poem “Address To A Haggis” and a glass of whisky.

Unfortunately for some, getting authentic haggis in the United States is not easy, because, among other reasons, the use of sheep lungs has been banned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture since 1971. (Just this fact alone has raised my estimation of government regulations.) A 1989 health ban on all British offal extended the restriction to hearts and livers, also vital for a true Scottish haggis.

But some creative chefs have come up with vegetarian versions of haggis, so that you can still celebrate if you like. You probably don’t need the whiskey so much for this version…. (just saying….)

This particular recipe is from “The Chicago Tribune”:

Vegetarian Haggis

Prep: 25 minutesCook: 40 minutesMakes: 4 servings

4 to 5 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
2 1/2 tablespoons butter
3 ounces white mushrooms,
1 1/2 cups, roughly chopped
Generous pinch of cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice, ground in a pestle and mortar
A few scrapes of freshly grated nutmeg
3 carrots, peeled, grated
3/4 cup red lentils, about 21/2 ounces
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 cups vegetable stock
1 small bunch rosemary, leaves stripped, finely chopped
1 small bunch thyme, leaves stripped
½ can red kidney beans (from a 14- or 15-ounce can), rinsed, drained
2 ounces steal-cut oatmeal, about 3/4 cup

1. In a medium casserole, cook the shallots and garlic in the butter over medium heat until very soft, 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms; increase heat to medium-high. Cook until mushrooms release their water and start to brown. Add the spices; cook for a couple of minutes. Add the carrots, lentils, lemon zest and salt; pour in boiling stock until the ingredients are just submerged, about 2 cups or more as needed. Simmer, covered, until the lentils are soft, about 15 minutes.

2. Mash the beans roughly with a fork; add them to the pan along with the oatmeal. Add a little more stock if needed, but the oatmeal should absorb the liquid so you’re left with something relatively firm. Stir over a low heat until the oatmeal has plumpened, about 5 minutes. Add the lemon juice, then taste and correct the seasoning.


You can watch a youtube presentation of Burns’s poem here:


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8 Responses to January 25 – Burns Night in Scotland

  1. Haggis? I couldn’t do it. LOL. When you described it above…. not for me 🙂

  2. sandynawrot says:

    Thanks for the suggestion, but….no.

  3. whatsheread says:

    I did a Burns Night a few years ago with coworkers. Yes, I even tried the haggis. I much prefered the whiskey.

  4. Marg says:

    We had haggis a couple of times for New Years Eve. No idea how authentic it was though!!

  5. Beth F says:

    Even the vegetarian version is unappealing. I would still need the whiskey and lots of it.

  6. I’m not sure I could handle haggis but I’d give it a try! I think the whiskey would make it much more palatable. The vegetarian version doesn’t look too scary but I’d need some serious whiskey to try the regular version!

  7. I want to try the authentic haggis! I love eating weird animal parts…and probably wouldn’t actually try to make this, but would love to try it if I ever make it across the pond. I just read Sheila at Book Journey’s review of Anything That Moves and this post ties right in with that book!

  8. jama says:

    The vegetarian version is something I’d consider, but never authentic haggis. I draw the line on offals and stomach linings . . .

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