The hungry gap, vegan haggis, and cast iron cookware

I heard a new word recently – well, two words – hungry gap. It has come, once again, into popular parlance thanks to Brexit. Britain imports more food than it produces and there are fears that without a trade deal on 29th March 2019, Britain will run low on food. Before Britain became a net importer of food, the period in late winter to early spring was called the hungry gap. Crops aren’t yet growing at this time of year and most of the winter stores have been depleted by then, leaving very little to eat. But now Britain imports so much and you can get whatever you want, whenever you want in supermarkets here … that is, until Brexit. I’ve read reports of people stockpiling food. We haven’t been doing that. Perhaps we should?

We’ve created a bit of a tradition in our home of having vegan haggis every Sunday with a vegan whisky sauce. It’s so good. This was dinner tonight.

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For dessert we had a clootie dumpling which we forgot to eat for Hogmanay. A clootie dumpling is a traditional Scottish dessert, similar to a fruit pudding. Cloot is the Scots word for cloth and it’s in this cloth that the fruit pudding is boiled. Traditionally they are made with animal suet – the fat found around organs in the body – but the one we ate was made with sunflower oil instead. It is a bit like a cake and was really delicious.

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I made some custard to go with the pudding. The custard saucepan in this photo is cast iron and British made by Netherton Foundry.

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Cast iron cookware is a good source of iron. We have had a cast iron frying pan for many years but I don’t fry very often and it isn’t used much. Mostly I cook with a casserole dish or saucepan so I replaced my stainless steel pot with a cast iron one and plan to get a cast iron casserole dish too.

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It’s a beautiful saucepan. Cast iron cookware is seasoned with oil and not meant to be washed with soap. Instead it is rinsed and dried.

Cooking with iron to reduce iron-deficiency anaemia inspired a Canadian scientist – Christopher Charles – to develop the lucky fish. He visited Cambodia in 2008 and was struck by the level of anaemia in the population. He developed the lucky fish which is a small iron ingot in the shape of a fish – apparently the fish is a symbol of luck for Cambodians. The fish is put into pots during cooking and releases much-needed iron into the food. The iron fish were successful but only for those cases of anaemia caused by iron deficiency. Anaemia can be caused by other things and in Cambodia there were genetic factors which the iron fish could not solve.

8 Replies to “The hungry gap, vegan haggis, and cast iron cookware”

  1. Blimey I could do with that iron fish. I had no idea you could get iron from real iron.
    I’d like to think that food insecurity would make us waste less but I’m not hopeful.

    1. We do waste so much food. I hope you’re right that food insecurity will encourage us to be less wasteful. I think you can buy the lucky fish online.

  2. I had no idea that cooking with a lump of iron in the pot would transfer into the food – it makes sense though, when you think about it, doesn’t it. It always interests me when our cat starts eating grass, or licking stones – and you know he’s searching out nutrients that are missing from his diet. How do they know ?

    1. I think it’s one of those things you learn when you become vegan. Iron is more likely to be a problem when you follow a vegan diet.

      One of the reasons I went vegan was because of how calves are – or were – reared for veal. They are bobby calves – a byproduct of the dairy industry – and it used to be that they were kept in small crates and deprived of iron to keep their flesh pale. This prompted the calves to lick the iron bars of their cage to try to get the iron they needed. I believe veal calves were banned in the UK in 2008. I went vegan about 5 years prior to that. I’m not sure whether they still deprive them of iron. The whole dairy industry upsets it.

  3. Neither Christine nor I can see how Haggis can be Vegan and still be called Haggis! Are you practising for Burns Night later in the month or did you just fancy a ‘Haggis’.

    1. You can buy vegetarian haggis at all major supermarkets. It says vegetarian but it’s also vegan. We like this one – https://www.sainsburys.co.uk/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/gb/groceries/simon-howie-vegetarian-haggis-454g?langId=44&storeId=10151&krypto=XaU8r4PVPAD0aNLDponw2UAyFEtWRKf6KKZhaqcYZk%2Bmeq%2BaxvbuvVuRc9XClxbXaY2SkVpolyexLO9y4PouKLJtMS68eOsOhLcUx9s0T992ZlKTL9RlleD4DerMr3mzqQdS69ITjeUy1QjXlp8gpgGUAfJheVbR3QQrrPDyJgI%3D&ddkey=https%3Agb%2Fgroceries%2Fsimon-howie-vegetarian-haggis-454g

      It contains the same spices and barley that real haggis has but has lentils and chickpeas instead of meat. It’s delicious! We have it every week and will probably have it for Burns night too 🙂

  4. Scouse is a traditional Liverpool dish – hence the term Scousers for Liverpudlians. It was a meat and vegetable stew. If a family was to poor to put in meat it became a vegetable stew & was called blind scouse. So could this be blind haggis or does that sound too cruel?

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