January 25, Burns Night, marks the annual celebration of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns. It’s generally a very meaty celebration, but you can enjoy a delicious Vegetarian Burns Night too.
Robbie Burns’ is a legend in Scotland as well as further afield. His huge volume of work includes ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and every year his fans celebrate with a special meal and a few ‘wee drams’ of whiskey.
What Is Haggis and Why Is It Served on Burns Night?
Robert Burns wrote a very famous poem called ‘Address to a Haggis’, hence the main dish. Haggis is made of sheep or calves’ organ meats chopped up and mixed with suet, oatmeal and seasoning, all encased in a sheep’s stomach. No, you didn’t read that wrong. Let’s just say there’s not enough whiskey in the world to make me eat that!
So how to celebrate a Vegetarian Burns night in a way that’s true to the spirit of the meal but without the meaty haggis? Luckily I have some ‘Not So Offal Mini Haggis’ which are completely vegetarian to share with you. And I apologise for the pun, it’s courtesy of The Vegetarian Society! Made with wholesome lentils, kidney beans, nuts and lots of lovely spices, these little ‘haggis’ are pretty easy to make and sound very tasty.
Who Was Robbie Burns?
Before I share the recipe, let me give you a bit of background on Mr Robbie Burns – also known as ‘The Bard’.
Born January 25, 1759 to tenant farmers, Burns’ life was not an easy one. However, he loved to read and began writing poetry at an early age.
Burns was very much a wild child of his era and even though his wife Jean bore him nine children but it didn’t stop his philandering. Lucky for Burns, Jean was an extremely kind-hearted soul and even took in one of his children by another woman.
Although Burns knew some regional popularity and was a hit in the cultural salons of Edinburgh, he died penniless at age 37 in July of 1796. He left many friends and admirers, who held a supper to honour Burns on the anniversary of his death in 1801. It became an annual event and was eventually moved to the eve of his birthday on January 25th.
Why Is Robbie Burns Still Celebrated?
Burns’ work has become very much a part of popular culture. ‘Auld Lang Syne’ is sung on New Year’s Eve in most parts of the world. John Steinbeck took the title of his 1937 bestseller ‘Of Mice and Men’ from a line in Robert Burns’ poem ‘’To a Mouse’ and Michael Jackson was a huge Burns fan. It’s said that “Thriller” was inspired by the supernatural events in Burns poem ‘Tam o’ Shanter’.
A Vegetarian Burns Night
The starter for any good Burns Night meal is either Scots Broth or Cock a Leekie Soup. For a Vegetarian Burns Night, I suggest serving a hearty vegetable soup instead.
Next comes the haggis and you can find the recipe for mini veggie haggis at the bottom of this post. The haggis is generally ‘piped’ into the room but you could find some bagpipe music on iTunes. When the haggis is on the table, the host recites Robert Burns’ poem ‘Address to a Haggis’ and proposes a toast to the main dish. Haggis is served alongside ‘neeps’ (mashed swede or turnip) and ‘tatties’ (mashed potatoes).
Dessert is shortbread or Cranachan, a sort of oaty trifle generally made with raspberries. After the meal, it’s traditional for one of the guest to make a speech about Robert Burns and everyone drinks a toast to the famous poet.
Whiskey is normally drunk throughout the meal but you could substitute apple juice for kids or anyone who is driving or doesn’t drink alcohol as the colour is very similar to whiskey.
Celebrating a Vegetarian Burns Night is a great way to introduce folks to a bit of history and some interesting poetry – as well as to have a bit of fun. And with these Not So Offal Mini Veggie Haggis from The Vegetarian Society, a Vegetarian Burns Night is very easy indeed!
- 100g/4oz onion, finely chopped
- 15ml/1tbsp sunflower oil
- 50g/2oz carrots, very finely chopped
- 35g/1.5oz mushrooms, finely chopped
- 50g/2oz red lentils
- 600ml/1pint vegetable stock
- 25g/1oz mashed, tinned red kidney beans
- 35g/1.5oz ground peanuts
- 25g/1oz ground hazelnuts
- 0.5 tbsp soy sauce
- 1tbsp lemon juice
- 2tsp dried thyme
- 2tsp dried rosemary
- generous pinch cayenne pepper
- 2 tsp mixed spice
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- salt to taste
- 200g/8oz fine oatmeal
- Pre-heat the oven to 190°C, 375°F or Gas Mark 5.
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.
- Sauté the onion in the oil for 5 minutes.
- Add the carrot and mushrooms and cook for a further 5 minutes.
- Now add the lentils and three quarters of the stock.
- Blend the mashed red kidney beans in the remaining stock, add these to the pan with the nuts, shoyu, lemon juice and seasonings.
- Cook everything, well mixed together, for a further 10 to 15 minutes.
- Add the oatmeal, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 15 to 20 minutes, adding a little extra liquid if necessary.
- Turn the mixture into 4 lightly oiled pudding tins and bake in the centre of the oven for 20 – 25 minutes.
- Serve with mashed neeps (swede) and tatties (potatoes), green veg and onion gravy.
All photos courtesy of The Vegetarian Society and are used with permission. Although I am not a vegetarian, I am happy to support the work of the Vegetarian Society in the hopes of encouraging us all to eat less meat. I have not been compensated for sharing this post, which was originally shared on the blog in January 2015.