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Yuba-Wrapped Vegan Haggis

 Okay, I know the real thing is gross and that the chances are remote that anyone would ever say, “I’d go vegan if only I had a plant-based alternative for my beloved haggis.”

Still, I’ve always loved the challenge of making a vegan version of meat-based recipes, not because I miss the meat (could anyone actually miss haggis?) but because I like to show that virtually anything that is made with animals can be made with plants — and no one has to suffer and die for it.

Haggis is traditionally served on Robert Burns’ birthday (January 25th) with mashed potatoes and mashed rutabaga (called “swede” in Scotland). I first made my vegan version (mostly as a joke) for my husband Jon who is of Scottish heritage. It turned out so well (what’s not to like about a bean and vegetable loaf made with oats and a splash of Scotch?) that I included a recipe for it in my book, Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker. Over the years, I have since tinkered with the recipe. Below is the latest version in case you want to celebrate the birthday of a certain Scottish poet.

This morning, I got my vegan haggis ready to cook all day in the slow cooker. These photos show the mixture in the bowl before going in the slow cooker, then in the slow cooker before and after folding the yuba over it. Sorry for the quality of the photos on the fly. I’ll try to snap a shot of the “after” photo later on when it’s done cooking.

P.S. If you do make this, you’ll want a flavorful brown gravy to go with it. Scottish cuisine isn’t big on seasoning and so the seasoning in this recipe leans to the mild side.

Yuba-Wrapped Vegan Haggis
Yuba, or bean curd skin, is used as a crispy outer wrapper for the Scotch-laced oat, bean, and vegetable mixture. Yuba is available in Asian markets where it is sold fresh or frozen in large sheets and is a versatile ingredient often used as a dumpling wrapper. Note: if you can’t find bean curd skin, the recipe can be made without it — just spoon the stuffing mixture directly into the lightly oiled cooker insert and proceed with the recipe. The stuffing can also be baked in a loaf pan.

1 large sheet fresh or frozen bean curd skin (yuba)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 large carrots, finely shredded
2 cups chopped mushrooms
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup vegetable broth, or more if needed
1 1/2 cups cooked or canned kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups cooked or canned black-eyed peas or chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2/3 cup finely chopped pecans or other nuts
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons Scotch whiskey (optional)
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon vegetable broth powder
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup vital wheat gluten flour (if needed)
1 potato or onion
Your favorite brown gravy, to serve
Thaw the bean curd skin if frozen — it should then be soft, not brittle. If brittle, soak in a shallow bowl of water for a few seconds to soften. Lightly oil a 4-quart slow cooker and set aside.
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and cook until tender then add the mushrooms and cook until softened. Stir in the oats and the 1/2 cup of broth. Set aside.
Mash the kidney beans and black-eyed peas and stir into the oat mixture. Add the nuts, parsley, whiskey (if using), soy sauce, thyme, vegetable broth powder, nutmeg, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Mix well to combine. If the mixture is too dry, add a little more broth to make it hold together. If the mixture becomes too moist, stir in up to 1/2 cup vital wheat gluten flour or chickpea flour.
Cut the potato or onion into 1/2-inch slices and arrange evenly in the bottom of the slow cooker — this is done to make the loaf easier to remove from the slow cooker. Line the slow cooker with the yuba sheet and spoon the stuffing mixture inside, spreading evenly. Fold the yuba sheet over onto the mixture to enclose it.
Cover and cook on low for 4 to 6 hours. Serve hot with brown gravy.
Serves 4 to 6

Oven-Baked Variation: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil a round baking dish and line it with the yuba. Spoon the stuffing mixture inside, spreading evenly. Fold the yuba sheet over the top of the mixture to enclose it. Cover tightly and bake for 45 minutes, then uncover and bake 10 minutes longer to slightly crisp the yuba.
NOTE: If you can’t find yuba, you can bake it without it — just spread the mixture evenly into an oiled loaf pan, cover tightly, and bake for 45 to 50 minutes.

Almost Irish Stew

It’s almost St. Patrick’s Day, so I decided to make “Almost Irish Stew” from Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker. It’s one of those basic “comfort food” stews that is perfect on a cold rainy day. I used baby carrots (halved lengthwise) but you can use sliced regular carrots, if you prefer, and any kind of white potatoes work well — just make sure they’re cut uniformly so everything gets done at the same time. I included diced seitan in my stew, but you could use white beans instead — it tastes great either way.

When I want extra flavor, I sauté the onion in a skillet first, but this time I skipped that step and it still tasted great. You can also sauté your seitan before adding it to the slow cooker, if you like it nice and browned. Again, it’s a personal choice.

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, I wanted to boost the Irish factor with a touch of green, so I added some fresh baby spinach (blanched first and then added close to serving time). Kale or cabbage would be good, too, but I especially like how the bright green spinach, orange carrots, and white potatoes show the colors of the Irish flag!

Almost Irish Stew
With the slow cooker doing all the work, it will give you time to make a loaf of Irish soda bread. Adapted from Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker. Variation: Substitute cooked white beans for the seitan. Instead of spinach or kale, you can substitute cabbage which can be added raw to the slow cooker when you add the carrots and potatoes.

1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cups baby carrots, halved lengthwise
5 small white potatoes, halved or quartered
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons tamari
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups blanched spinach or kale
8 ounces seitan, diced

Place the chopped onion in the bottom of a slow cooker. Add the carrots, potatoes, garlic, stock, bay leaf, wine, tamari, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. About 30 minutes before serving, add the spinach and seitan. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot.

Serves 4

Slow Cooker “Pot au Feu”

Although my tastes generally run to foods that are hot and spicy, caramelized, pan-seared, or grilled, sometimes I’m in the mood for simpler fare, especially on cold wintry days. This kind of weather often turns my thoughts to the cozy goodness of slow-cooker recipes. The other day I wanted something loaded with veggies but more substantial than soup. I cracked open a copy of Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker, and my eyes landed on the perfect solution: Pot au Feu!

Similar to the Italian bolito misto or the Boston boiled dinner my mother occasionally made when I was growing up, the pot au feu is simple no-frills comfort food. Literally pot on the fire, it refers to a French dish of meat and vegetables slowly cooked in water or broth. Usually, the rich broth is served with croutons as a first course.

The vegetables included may vary according to the region, but usually contain potatoes, carrots, and leeks. I added slices of seitan during the last thirty minutes of cooking time, just long enough to heat the seitan and let the rich flavors of the broth permeate it. Served with a crusty baguette and a glass of wine, it was just like dining in the French countryside — only different.

Slow Cooker Pot au Feu
This recipe is adapted from Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker. If you don’t have a large slow cooker, cut down on the quantities slightly so that everything fits. Instead of making a horseradish sauce as an accompaniment like I do in the book, I put out small bowls of prepared horseradish and coarse brown mustard. Of course, it’s best served with a baguette — try it sliced and toasted, then brushed with a little olive oil and rubbed with garlic.

2 leeks, white part only, halved lengthwise and well washed
1 pound small red potatoes, halved
2 parsnips, peeled and sliced
2 small turnips, peeled and quartered
1 1/2 cups baby carrots
1 celery rib, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 small head Savoy cabbage, cut into 6 wedges
4 cups vegetable broth
1 bouquet garni (cheesecloth bundle containing peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon stick thyme, parsley, and bay leaves)
Splash of dry white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces seitan, thinly sliced

1. Cut the leeks into 3-inch long pieces and place them in a 5 1/2 to 6-quart slow cooker. Add the potatoes, parsnips, turnips, carrots, celery, and cabbage. Pour the broth over all, add the bouquet garni and a splash of wine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. The amount of salt needed depends on the saltiness of your broth. Cover and cook on Low for 6 to 7 hours, or until vegetables are tender. (See note.)
2. During the last 30 minutes of cooking, add the seitan slices. Taste the broth and adjust the seasonings, if needed.
3. To serve, remove vegetables and seitan from the broth. Discard the bouquet garni. Serve the broth as a first course or alongside the entrée. Arrange the vegetables and seitan on a large platter. Serve with condiments and toasted bread.
Serves 4

Note: Some slow cookers (crockpots) cook faster than others. The cooking time is approximate. If you want your meal cooked faster, cook it on High and it should be ready in about 4 hours. In either case, if possible, after about 3 hours, pierce your vegetables with a fork to test for doneness, and baste with some of the broth.