Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Mushroom haggis pakoras with curried neep chips

Over the years the Scottish haggis has undergone many guises from its traditional serving with mashed neeps (swede, rutabaga or turnip) and tatties (potatoes) on St Andrews Day or Robert Burns Night, to celebrate the Caledonian national bards birthday. These days there are many ways to eat the Haggis. There is haggis samosas, haggis pakoras, haggis pasty, haggis spring rolls, haggis wontons, haggis lasagne, Haggis tostados, haggis Tex Mac nachos, haggis quesadillas and even haggis wraps with winter Tzatziki.

I personally think the wider appeal of the haggis in the past few years has come about come about because of the versatility of the 'vegetarian haggis'. Previous to that not even hardcore meat eaters could stomach the thought of eating the 'real haggis' made from sheeps stomach stuffed with oatmeal, sheeps lung, heart and liver, but disguise it and it becomes a far more appealing product.

It’s only been in the past few years that Scotland has begun to recognise the contributions made by its ethnically diverse communities. Most notable for me is perhaps the visibility of Scottish Sikh communities whom whilst proudly retaining their own cultural and religious identity, have openly embraced aspects of Scottish identity. As part of Scotlands hidden 'Black history' I have learned about the Scottish Sikh Prince, I also became aware of the contributions of the New Scots: the Polish Tartan, the Scottish-Sikh or Leith Tartan. 

Such cultural influences have also impacted on cuisine. In the cities of Scotland, you will often see a Punjabi-style haggis on menus at pubs and restaurants. To the traditional haggis recipe additional ingredients such as onions, cumin seeds, garlic, ginger, green chillies and other spices are added and Naan bread, rotis and chappatis replace the traditional 'neeps' and 'tatties'.
Jeevan Singh of the band The Tartan Dhollies, wearing Leith Sikh tartan. © the artist
From Portrait of The New Asians by photographer Herman Rodriguez 2006

The traditional Burns Night supper ritual would begin with the haggis being ceremoniously led into the room by a man dressed in complete Scottish outfit and bagpipes. However, at a Sikh Burns Night supper, this duty is performed by a Scottish Sikh piper wearing his turban and kilt to identify both his religious, social and cultural heritage. This should not be a surprise, after all, Indian and Pakistani pipe bands have been popular sight at Scottish piping events in Paisley, Glasgow and Edinburgh for a long time now. Also did you know that many of the bagpipes and kilts imported into Scotland are manufactured in the Indian and Pakistani Punjab.
I have read some instances when the haggis was led into the room by a Bhangra or dhol band. Anyway, back to the Burns Supper Night. At a traditional Scottish Burns supper night, the Scottish dirk is traditionally stabbed into the haggis skin during the Burns Ode to a Haggis address, however at a Scottish Sikh event this is often replaced with a kirpan, a spiritual Sikh dagger.

Many people will be or are horrified at integration of cultural identities, and more so at the fusion of such cuisines, but think about it, many countries, even towns and cities identities are based on imports or cuisines that are fusion food. Take Dundee Marmalade for example or even a cup of Tea in Great Britain. Anyway, I digress again. Last year in acknowledgment of Scotlands diverse communities, BBC Radio Scotland transmitted a programme Ravi Burns. In place of Burns's 'Address to A Haggis', the Scottish Sikh comedian actor Sanjeev Kohli gives us Ode to a Samosa: "Wee sleekit, cowrin' triangular tastie, oh what a picnic is in thy pastry'. The novelist Alasdair Gray also recited 'To a Mouse' against a background of sitars.

Now back to my dish. You may already know that every South Asian (m)Ummi Ji whether she is from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh will have her own traditional recipe for pakoras, but the one I am using for this recipe combines both Scottish and Punjabi cuisines. I served these with curried neep chips and mint-yogurt chutney. This is my effort for a belated Burns Supper. I hope you will all approve.

To see more about the Portrait of The New Asians Exhibition see here link to National Library of Scotland

Mushroom haggis pakoras with curried neep chipsServes 4
For the pakoras
200g gram flour also known as chickpea or besan flour
1 tablespoon of garam masala
1 generous tablespoon of dried methi, also know as dried Fenugreek leaves
1 teaspoon cumin or Ajwain seeds (also known as Bishop weeds seeds)
Salt and red chilli powder to taste
1 fresh green chilli, minced
Tepid water as required
1 small Vegetarian Haggis
6 – 8 large Portobello mushrooms
Sunflower or olive oil for frying
To make the pakora batter, put all the dry ingredients into a large bowl and minced green chilli and mix. Add water gradually and mix the batter until smooth but not thick. Leave aside for 5-10 minutes.
Steam the haggis for 20 minutes, then break it up with a fork so that it can cool down.
In the meantime, wipe clean the mushrooms and cut out the core.
Heat the oil in a frying pan for 5 minutes. Scoop out a tablespoon of haggis on the mushroom, press and spread it gently with the back of the spoon. Add more haggis if required but not too much. Do this with all the mushrooms. When this is done, gently place the mushroom into the batter to coat, I use my hands, but use a spoon if you wish to ensure batter covers the mushroom.
Heat the vegetable oil. Place 2 – 3 mushrooms into the pan, ensuring not to crowd them out and fry for 3-4 minutes until golden-brown. Turn the mushroom over so that it is evenly golden. Once cooked, remove from the pan and place onto a kitchen towel to dry.
For the curried neep chips
One large swede, turnip or rutabaga, peeled and sliced into chips
Toss in generous coating of olive oil
Bake in a moderate hot oven, turning now and again until slightly golden.
In the last 10 minutes, sprinkle over either 1 teaspoon curry powder or garam masala and a sprinkling of salt. Cook for a further 10 minutes. Then serve warm.


  1. what a fab post MC. Where would we be without intercultural food fushion? Dulling our tastebuds probably ;o)
    I bought G a meat haggis but didn't get round to making a veggie one for me. I know you have a good recipe for when I do try it out and now you've even given us several more ideas for using the leftovers. What a star you are!

  2. Wow!!! Looks absolutely great and delicious:)

  3. wow . . mushroom pakoras. I would have never thought of that! Your pakora batter sounds just about right.
    Instead of ajwain, methi and garam masala - next time try adding only roasted and crushed coriander seeds and cumin. They make pakoras taste sublime :)

  4. Vegetarian haggis pakoras sound awesome!! And your posts make such interesting and informative reading! I'd love to try these out (if I knew where to get vegetarian haggis in London ;))! These should also taste awesome with buckwheat flour - thanks for such wonderful recipes !

  5. I finally made your Thai butternut squash soup, and it was outstanding!

  6. How neat!! I love fusion cuisine. This meal must have been a really unique experience.

    And by the way, I think you're right- my boyfriend doesn't seem to be a fan of couscous. Such a shame!

  7. Very interesting post and recipes, thank you for sharing :-)

  8. fascinating - I have never heard of this side of Scottish culture but I know that curries are loved by so many, so I am not surprised to hear how it has influenced the celebration of the haggis - wonderful recipe

  9. great post - v interesting stuff! I'll be giving the pakoras a try next Burns night, if not before...

  10. Hi,

    I saw your comment on another blog about your allotment being burnt...

    That was a horrible thing for someone to have done. Will you be able to find another?

    I love your blog!

  11. Loved the recipe enjoyed the history :)

  12. You're absolutely right, I'm a meat eater but definitely haven't ever fancied trying 'real haggis'. I would certainly try vegatarian haggis though.

  13. Wow. This looks so good. I love your recipes.

  14. Thank you so much Nic.
    I totally agree 'where would WE ALL be with intercultural food fushion?' If you can't wait fopr the day I post up a veggie haggis recipe, you may want to check out the Vegetarian Society web and International Vegetarian Union -, which is the one I prefer to make. There is also a good recipe on GGGJohanna's blog.

    Thank you Rachana.

    Thanks Grapefruit.
    My mother tends to make pakoras with coriander and cumin seeds, which is my preference too, but for change I decided to make these with ajwain seeds.

    Hi Rashmi.
    I think the time to look for any kind of haggis is around St Andrews Day or Burns Night, otherwise unless your living in Scotland its hard to get. Oh of course you could consider purchasing the tinned variety on-line.

    I haven't cooked with buckwheat flour so that is an interesting suggestion. Thanks!

    Oh Kate.
    I am so pleased. Thank you so much for coming by and letting me know. Did you do the tofu croutons?

    Thanks RGVeggie.
    It was an interesting experience and one I won't forget in a hurry.
    If your the one whose doing the cooking, I am sure your boyfriend will develop a liking for couscous in time :)

  15. Thank you so much Alessandra.

    Its so interesting Johanna.
    As a South Asian Welshie coming to Scotland I got a big intercultural shock, but I guess if it was the other way around, a South Asian person coming from Scotland to Wales may have experienced what I did. When its on your doorstep we don't often see these things.

    Talking of curries in Scotland, below is an interesting link. There are claims that the Tikka Masala was invented in Glasgow, Scotland. MMmmm. That is all I am saying on the matter.

    Thank you so much for coming by AForkfulofSpaghetti.

    Hi E,
    Thank you so, so much for coming by. It is a pleasure to have you.
    Me ans my husband are completely heart-broken. Everytime I think about it my eyes well up. YOu know the saying 'outside I am smiling, inside I am crying' that is how I am feeling right now, but hey, we carry on with life. The way we feel at the moment, we just don't want to think it yet. Our growing energies will go into our tiny garden plot and pots. Maybe in a months time, we will feel differnt and try to get another one in time. Once again Thank you so much for your concern and kind words. They are most appreciated. And of course Welcome.

    Thank you Kella.

    You must try the vegetarian haggis. The meat eaters I know, love it - honestly.

    Thank you so much Krys.

  16. Wow, those sound absolutely amazing. I am drooling at the thought of them :P


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