Robbie Burns Night

My first mistake was informing Mark it is Robbie Burns Night. My second mistake was reminding him, as I do every year, what Robbie Burns Night is. My third and final, fatal, mistake was admitting that yes, I’m making vegan haggis.

Although I’ve been vegetarian for five times longer than Mark, and although I swear it does not resemble nor taste a thing like real haggis (which I assume is true although I have no idea what real haggis looks or tastes like), Mark absolutely refuses to so much as try a bite of anything I refer to as “haggis”. What I should have done is told him it was “meatloaf” (though we just had meatloaf on Friday, which was poor meal planning on my part), or anything but haggis. I made it once before, the first Burns Night after we were married. It seemed appropriate: we were married in Scotland, so the country holds a special place in my heart. Mark, however, ate nary a bite. So for subsequent Burns Nights, I’ve not bothered with the trouble of making a haggis no one is going to be eating but me. This year, however, I am the proud author of a food blog, so I felt somewhat obligated to celebrate. Even if haggis is really, really disgusting.

The first time I made vegan haggis, I used this recipe or something very like it (sans mushrooms, of course). I tried telling Mark – truthfully – that it tasted like stuffing, which he loves, but he wasn’t having it. This year I did my typical glance-at-a-few-differentrecipes-then-make-something-up routine. This is what I did:

Vegan Haggis

2 Tbsp barley
2 Tbsp green lentils
1/4 cup steel cut oats (I used Irish oats, sue me)
1/2 cup vegan “beef” broth
1 Tbsp Marmite
1/2 large onion, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
1 parsnip, minced
3/4 package vegan “ground round”
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp rubbed sage
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Note: I used commercial “ground round” because I had a package that was set to expire. Next time I might try bulgur or something more natural.

In a small pot, cook the barley in 1/2 cup water for half an hour.

In another small pot, cook the lentils in 1/2 cup water for half an hour.

Toast the oatmeal briefly in a frying pan over medium heat.

Mix the broth and Marmite together, then add the oatmeal. Cover and set aside.

(I added the seasonings in this step, but I’ll instruct you to do it later because I realized it dumb to do it at this step.)

Mince the onion, celery, and parsnip. I used a chopper.

Heat a small amount of oil in a medium frying pan. Add the minced veggies and saute until soft.

Add the “ground round” and seasonings; saute for 3 minutes.

When the lentils are done …

… drain them …

and add to the “ground round” mixture. When the barley is done …

… drain it …

… and also add to the “ground round” mixture.

Drain the oatmeal, reserving the broth.

Add it also to the “ground round” mixture.

Dump the mixture into the center of a large piece of muslin or heavy cheesecloth.

Mold it into a lump with your hands.

Wrap it up as tightly as you can, securing with kitchen string.

Place the reserved broth and enough water to make 4 cups of liquid into a medium pot, then add the haggis.

Bring to a boil, cover, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 1 hour or longer. Remove from broth and allow to cool until you can touch it. Squeeze out as much liquid as you can without smashing the haggis. Unwrap.

(I boiled it because it seemed like what you do with haggis, however, I think next time I might bake it like a meatloaf.)

Serve with gravy.

Apparently you pretty much have to serve haggis with “neeps and tatties”, or mashed turnips and potatoes. I assume most of you know how to make mashed potatoes so I’ll skip that. I took a hint from Bryanna and roasted the neeps first. They got very small in the oven; six turnips barely made two servings.

Mashed Roasted “Neeps”

6 – 8 turnips
olive oil

Trim, peel, and chop the turnips into evenly sized pieces. Place on a baking sheet. Pour a small amount of olive oil into your palms, then rub the turnips with it.

Roast at 375 degrees for 40 minutes or until done. They will have shrunk!


This year I tried something new and also made cock-a-leekie soup, the traditional Burns Night starter course. How could I resist making something with that name?! I’m not sure if barley is normal in this soup, but I saw it called for in this recipe and thought it sounded like a good idea.

Cock-a-Leekie Soup

1/2 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 parsnip, chopped
3 leeks, chopped (white and light green parts only)
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
4-6 cups vegan “chicken” stock
1/3 cup barley
1 cup Soy Curls
2 large or 4 small potatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp thyme

Chop the leeks.

Chop the parnsip.

Chop the celery.

Heat some oil in a soup pot, then add the onions. Saute for 3 minutes.

Add the leeks. Saute for 5 minutes.

Add the celery, parsnips, and garlic. Saute another 3 minutes.

Add the broth.

Add the potatoes, Soy Curls, and barley.

Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 30-45 minutes or until barley is cooked.


And here is the entire meal. I had leftover gravy from Friday’s meatloaf; you can make your favorite recipe.

I drank wine with mine instead of Scotch, firstly because I don’t generally drink hard liquor, especially on work nights, and secondly because all I have is Irish whiskey (from a Bloomsday celebration, which honestly I take a little more seriously). I might get away with using Irish oats, but surely I’d be in trouble for drinking Irish whiskey on Robbie Burns Night! I also failed to pipe the haggis to the serving table, mostly because I don’t have bagpipes nor know how to play them. To make up for that, though, here is a picture of Ian, the piper from our wedding. Yes, that’s Pig.

Here’s one reason I don’t play the bagpipes:

Nor did I recite any of Robbie’s poetry, for which I have absolutely no excuse other than my Scottish accent is awful.

I’d have made Mark wear the kilt he wore to our wedding, but it’s at his mother’s house (she made it for him!) and every time she tries to get him to take it home with us, he “forgets” it. Sigh. So maybe I failed being very Scottish today. But don’t get me wrong: I love Scotland.


  1. Jes Said,

    January 25, 2009 @ 10:44 pm

    Robbie Burns day! I have to admit that I totally forgot about it until I checked my blogroll this morning. Bloomsday is definitely more my literary celebration of choice. The haggis looks great though. I’ve been meaning to make some for awhile but haven’t gotten around to it. Love the wedding/Scotland pics!

  2. Cindy Said,

    January 26, 2009 @ 10:07 am

    I’m surprised you didn’t reference Mike Meyers quip in ‘So I Married An Ax Murderer’ that: “All Scottish food is based on a dare.” The Cock-A-Leekie Soup looks about my speed, but the haggis is way too advanced for me. Never heard of Robbie Burns day either. I learn all sorts of things at this blog!

  3. Mark Said,

    January 26, 2009 @ 10:19 am

    Ian the bagpiper! That was awesome, we demanded the staff at the wedding get drunk with us. The unfortunate downside of this though was that we also demanded our photographer get drunk. Our pictures degraded very quickly.

  4. renae Said,

    January 26, 2009 @ 10:47 am

    Jes – finally, someone else who celebrates Bloomsday! Sometimes I feel so alone in the world…

    Cindy, actually, I’m surprised that Mark didn’t quote So I Married an Ax Murderer! He loves that moves…and apparently hates Scottish food. The haggis isn’t hard, but it is a lot of steps and dirty dishes.

    Mark, I’d rather we had fun at our wedding than had perfect photographs, and I think we succeeded!

  5. Mark Said,

    January 26, 2009 @ 6:12 pm

    Cindy – I actually quote that movie on a daily basis. My coworkers and myself agree it is possibly the most quotable movie in existence.

  6. Cindy Said,

    January 27, 2009 @ 8:49 am

    Mike Meyers sure can come up with great lines. “Is that your head or a planetoid?!”

  7. jeremy Said,

    January 27, 2009 @ 4:43 pm

    Haggis has an undeservedly bad rep!

  8. avegancalledbacon Said,

    February 26, 2009 @ 6:33 am

    Hi, I was just writing about some Scottish roots food and remembered I had read this back when you wrote it. I had meant to tell you then: in Scotland, when we talk about mashed neeps, we’re usually talking about what (I think) you call rutabaga. That’s why they seemed so small for the job!

    Also, yes, it’s common to put pearl barley in soup.

    Lovely looking haggis!

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