There are plenty of big questions that parents and parents-to-be face. As a Scottish dad, I am tackling one such question this week: will our son like haggis? With Burns Night coming up on 25th January, I thought that it would be a good time to tackle this issue. Burns Night celebrates the birthday of Robert Burns, who is widely considered to have been Scotland’s national poet. A traditional Burns Supper involves recitals of Burns poems and the consumption of haggis, a dish made out of sheep’s innards mixed with vegetables and spices that is traditionally cooked in a sheep’s stomach.
Being a vegetarian, I’ve never tasted the traditional meat haggis. However, as I have mentioned before on this blog, I am a bit of a fan of vegetarian haggis. I’m so much of a fan of it that this in fact the third post I’ve done in four months in which I’ve talked about vegetarian haggis, as it also made its way into a post I did to mark St. Andrews’ Day back in November. This Saturday will be my first Burns Night as a dad and will also mark another first as I will be attempting to make vegetarian haggis from scratch myself rather than buying the packaged version that is widely available in health food shops in the UK.
Although some friends will be coming round for a Burns Night get together slightly after our nine month old son is likely to have gone to bed, I’m going to make sure that he is able to try to some of it and will be interested to see how he responds. As my wife I are doing baby-led weaning with him, he has already sampled quite a few different foods and he’s got quite into certain fruits and vegetables such as broccoli and blueberries.
In a lot of ways, Burns Night is something that I mark more because it’s an excuse to invite some friends round and share some tasty food rather than anything else. I’m not some sort of staunch nationalist and indeed almost all of my living relatives are from Ireland rather than Scotland. In fact, I’m such a bad Scotsman that quite a few Burns Nights pass by without even a half-hearted attempt to read any Burns poetry such as the famous Address to a Haggis that is traditionally read before the haggis is cut open.
I know at least two people who have made vegetarian haggis in the past, so I was keen to give it a go this year. After some searching on the internet, I came across quite a few different but fairly similar recipes. These included one from The Guardian newspaper, another by a blogger who is into sustainable farming and a third from a well-known vegetarian restaurant in Edinburgh. Despite the fact that the second of the three recipes was from someone who happens to live little more than an hour away from where I do in North Wales, I’ve decided that I’ll try out the final one from the Edinburgh vegetarian restaurant.
Despite saying earlier that I’m not some sort of staunch nationalist, I have developed some perhaps slightly pedantic nationalist reflexes whilst trying to assemble the ingredients that I’ll need for Burns Night. I decided to get some porridge oats that were definitely made in Scotland (and were not marked ‘produce of more than one country’) and I’m also determined to get some sort of Scottish drink to have with the haggis. However, finding a suitable beverage has been a bit of a challenge as I don’t drink alcohol (ruling out whisky and quite a few different widely available beers).
The obvious Scottish soft drink to purchase would normally be Irn Bru, an orange coloured fizzy drink that is sometimes referred to as ‘Scotland’s other national drink’. However, I do find it a bit too sugary and sickly and apparently some of it is now produced at a factory on the English side of Hadrian’s Wall. I’ve come to the conclusion that Scottish mineral water is going to be the easiest option to go for. I do feel that buying bottled water in a country where we have perfectly drinkable tap water is a bit pointless, so will probably go for some of the sparkling variety (which I quite like mixing with fruit juice).
This search for Scottish products is perhaps a bit silly as the nibbles that I have got for Burns Night include tortilla chips and mini poppadoms. However, I do like mixing things up a bit when it comes to serving the vegetarian haggis. For example, it’s lovely as a pancake filling, with tabbouleh or even as part of vegetarian haggis cannelloni. In the past, I have made vegetarian haggis burgers and also eaten left over vegetarian haggis in pitta bread with tzatsiki. I also fancy trying out both aubergine and vegetarian haggis towers and vegetarian haggis pakoras.
My son, and everyone else who comes round later this week, will be served the more traditional haggis with mashed potato. Our son has eaten mashed potato before and seemed to like it, so he’s already half way to liking the dish that I’m going to be cooking. It has crossed my mind that our son might end up not liking vegetarian haggis. I won’t be all that bothered if this happens as I just want to share a dish that I like with him, just as I love the idea of us all sitting down as a family to have a vegetable curry together. I’m not a stickler for tradition and think that consuming haggis in a vegetarian and perhaps novel way is an example of creating your own traditions. Anyway, our son’s day often begins with a bowl of porridge for breakfast so he’s already getting his fare share of traditional Scottish food!
MAJOR NEWS UPDATE (25/01/2014): our son does like haggis!!!
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