Ain't it the truth, Robbie. Ain't it the truth.
This is the story of how I tried to make vegan meatloaf, failed miserably, and fate intervened and instead brought me and my tastebuds to a place I miss more than any other: Scotland.
Recently, on yet another frigid, grey day during which my spirit steadily flagged, I found myself wanting comfort food, stat. I needed mashed potatoes, roast carrots, and "meat" loaf. Preferably eaten from the depths of my down comforter. So after a spot of research, and this seemingly helpful website, I threw together a recipe. After a fair amount of chopping and food processing, the loaf went in the oven and I puttered around the house for an hour.
When I opened my oven, I had a steaming hot, completely gelatinous mess. Still nearly as moist and loose as when it had gone in, my loaf was closer in consistency to the mashed potatoes I'd been about to make. I tasted it to see if the concoction was even worth salvaging, and suddenly I was having flashbacks to the history-sodden streets of Edinburgh and humbling vistas of Skye. I had unknowingly recreated the vegetarian haggis I'd sampled all along my roadtrip across Scotland.
Now, this is remarkable for two reasons. For those who don't know, haggis is as non-vegan a dish as you can possibly find, with the possible exception of blood sausage. So the fact that a vegetarian version even exists is exceptional enough, as is the fact that I actually encountered about half a dozen places serving it during my week wandering across the country with my father. My trip became Linnea's Haggis Tour '14.
The other reason this sudden discovery really struck me lies in my terribly deep connection to that part of the world. My first visit at 13, spent largely in the Inner Hebrides, left me transformed. and I promised myself I'd go back. Ten years later I fulfilled that promise, and my spiritual bond to that incredible, beautiful place, simulaneously lush and rugged, deepened tremendously.
My knowledge of it's vegetarian dining options also deepened (and pleasantly surprised), and the best discovery was the nearly ubiquitous offering of vegetarian haggis. A delicious compromise somewhere between nut loaf and bread stuffing, I found not a one that disappointed, and the same cannot be said for the meat varieties I'd tasted ten years earlier.
So I was in quite happy to unexpectedly have a whole batch of it on my hands. I decided the only way to enjoy unintentional haggis is to whip up some neeps and tatties, and got to work doing so.
Now, I'm not going to pretend everyone who eats this is going to be blinded by visions of castles and hear bagpipes echoing across the moor, I'm pretty sure that treat is mine alone. But it is a seriously tasty, filling, and nutritious dish, and a perfect pick-me-up during crappy weather. Plus, telling people you've been eating vegan haggis is worth it for the looks on their faces alone.
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped or food processed into coarse meal 2 TB olive oil 1 onion, diced 1 large garlic clove, minced 2 carrots, peeled and diced 2 celery ribs, diced 1 cup mushrooms, cleaned and chopped 2 cups cooked/canned garbanzo beans 1 cup uncooked quick oatmeal or oat bran 1/4 to 1/2 cup vegetable broth 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal 1/4 tsp dried thyme 1/4 tsp dried marjoram
1/2 tsp dried sage 2 TB nutritional yeast flakes Several dashes vegetarian Worcestershire Sauce
3 tbsp Sweet Baby Ray's Barbeque Sauce Black pepper, to taste 3 tbsp soy sauce
Preheat the oven to 350F and grease a loaf pan.
Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat and saute onion, carrot, and celery until soft. Pulse in food processor with garbanzo beans and quick oats until there aren't any sizable chunks. In mixing bowl add the rest of ingredients and thoroughly blend, adding more stock or quick oats if the mixture is too dry or wet.
Press into pan and bake for 1.5 hours. At the 45 minute mark, check to see if the top is too crunchy and cover with foil if you'd like.
While the haggis is cooking, you can get cracking on the neeps and tatties! This super traditional Scottish dish is simply boiled and mashed swede (or rutabega in North America) and potato, but whether the true version involves mixing the two together is a hot debate. Personally, I prefer them together.
Neeps & Tatties
Equal parts potato and swede (I used 1 lb of each), peeled and chopped
Earth Balance, salt, white pepper, and nutmeg to taste
Bring a pot of salted water to boil, add swede and cook for about 15 minutes, til just starting to get tender. Add potato and cook untl both are fork tender. Drain, put back in pot and mash. Add Earth Balance and seasonings to taste.
Once the haggis is done, remove from oven, and serve hot with neeps and tatties. Then break out the bag pipes and dream of rolling hills and raucous ceilidhs!