Neeps & tatties

by Tim Maddams

A vegetarian alternative to the traditional Scottish haggis dish

The traditional garnish for the famous haggis is, of course, neeps and tatties. Here I have put both vegetables centre stage and applied some cookery to make this Scottish classic a modern, vegetarian alternative that could grace any Burns Night celebration.

The ‘tatties’ have become lightly fired potato dumplings and the ‘neeps’ a puree heavily seasoned with white pepper, and to bring it all together some briefly sautéed swede tops (or a little kale if you can’t get them) and a herby oatmeal crunch to add texture and a cheeky nod to the oats in the haggis.


1 large baking potato
1 organic egg, lightly beaten
¼ tsp fresh thyme, chopped
A little plain organic flour (approx 100g)
50g fine organic semolina
50ml good quality olive oil
1 organic swede
2 cloves of garlic
A pinch of chilli flakes
A pinch of ground clove or mace
100ml water
A small sprig of parsley
50g pinhead oatmeal
10ml olive oil
¼ tsp rosemary, chopped
1 clove of garlic

To finish:
20g organic butter
100g swede tops / turnip tops or kale, washed and shredded
1 fresh bay leaf


To begin, place the potato in the oven and bake until thoroughly tender. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 mins or so, but not long enough for it to go cold. Cut the potato in half and push the flesh through a sieve with a spoon to make a very fine paste.

Add the lightly beaten egg, chopped thyme and as little of the flour as possible to make it into a light, and just about not-sticky dough. Place this on a lightly floured work surface and cover with the up turned mixing bowl.

If you are in a rush or want to save time, you can just mix the potato, thyme and flour together and skip the boiling and refreshing step below—the dumplings will be a little heavier and denser, but still very tasty.

Otherwise, divide the dough into quarters and roll out on a lightly floured work surface into 1cm thick sausages—easier said than done, but try not to add too much more flour at this stage. Cut the sausages into 2cm pieces and place on a baking tray, well dusted with fine semolina—this stops them sticking, but won’t make them all slimy when you cook them like excess flour will.

Once they are all done, cook in boiling water for as long as it takes them to float to the surface. Immediately re-fresh them in cold water, then drain well and dress with a little olive oil and place them in the fridge on a tray or in a bowl until needed. This can be done up to 3-4 hours before you want to finish the dish.

Scrub the swede, or peel if you prefer—I’m a bit of a nut for not peeling, but it’s up to you. Dice it finely or slice finely in a food blender. In a large pan on the stove top, heat most of the remaining olive oil to a medium heat—certainly not smoking hot.

Add the swede to the pan, then chop the garlic cloves and add these as well. The pinch of chilli and some salt and white pepper can go in now too. Cook slowly on a medium heat with a lid on and stir occasionally until tender. Add a little water if needs must.

Blend this mix, adding more water if you have to, and re-season with more white pepper, salt and either mace or clove powder, it’s up to you. Again, this can be made in advance BUT it’s best made fresh—don’t ask me why but once it’s been chilled, it loses something.

Place the parsley, oatmeal, olive oil, chopped rosemary and garlic into a food blender and blend until even, tip this onto a lined baking sheet and spread it out evenly. Bake in a hot oven until toasted and set aside to cool.

All that remains is to put it all together. In a frying pan, melt the butter and take it to nut brown, add the potato dumplings along with the bay leaf and cook evenly to get a nice browning effect. They will puff up a little, and they will need seasoning too.

Place 1-2 spoonfuls of the swede puree on each plate and place a 8-12 dumplings on top. Return the dumpling pan to the stove and briefly sauté the greens and season them well—don’t over cook them, almost raw is better. Scatter the greens over the top of each plate. Sprinkle with a little of the oatmeal mixture and serve.

ALTERNATIVE: If you have no oatmeal, use breadcrumbs.

Recipe: Tim Maddams