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Va­lerie O’Con­nor sets off on a foodie trip to Ed­in­burgh and finds much to her sat­is­fac­tion

Ed­in­burgh has plenty of op­tions to sate the veg­e­tar­ian ap­petite, says Va­lerie O’Con­nor

“HAVE some ve­gan hag­gis!” was the taunt from a friend when I an­nounced my plans to travel to Ed­in­burgh for the week­end. A short hop on a wee pro­pel­lor­plane from Shannon, trailing over sunny snow­capped moun­tains, we landed in no time at the friendli­est air­port out­side of Por­tu­gal (the Por­tuguese win hands down in the cheer­ful con­test).

Trav­el­ling alone is a dod­dle, no­body to cor­ral and that bliss­ful time in the air when you have, briefly, dis­ap­peared. The city was sunny and clear — Ed­in­burgh is a grand city, af­flu­ent and wellto do but with lit­tle pre­ten­sion. Our apart­ment was a stone’s throw from Cas­tle Rock, pedestal to the fa­mous Ed­in­burgh Cas­tle and home to a royal res­i­dence since the twelfth cen­tury. It dom­i­nates the city and in par­tic­u­lar, gor­geous Prince’s Street Park. This pub­lic space, com­plete with it’s own out­door theatre pro­vides a pretty and wide open arena, scooped into the ground, me­an­der­ing up and down on hilly lev­els. We found a gem of spot called Her­bie that has magic soup, sandwiches and sal­ads for great prices. Seven soups a day to choose from, and a choice of sand­wich and snack for a fiver. A roasted car­rot salad with spelt and spinach was a treat in the win­ter sun­shine. We went there two days in a row as the weather was so good we

wanted to soak it up. Ed­in­burgh has a hap­pen­ing food scene with lots of popup food mar­kets tak­ing place in re­cent years — the much loved Cas­tle Ter­race farm­ers’ mar­ket has been go­ing for years, Stock­bridge mar­ket is on ev­ery Sun­day and Leith hap­pens ev­ery Satur­day. The Food & Flea is the new­est of the bunch and is open ev­ery day, a great idea where hun­gry pun­ters can com­bine their love of vin­tage gear with a hag­gis bur­rito. Sour­dough pizza is the city’s new­est thing and artisan dough­nuts and good cof­fee abound. With so many places to choose from we found our­selves in Wa­haca, one of a chain of Mex­i­can eater­ies set up by the very first Masterchef win­ner, Thomasina Miers. Mex­i­can food is a dream for the meat­free trav­eller as beans abound and real corn tor­tillas are burst­ing with flavour. The tor­tilla bas­ket salad was filled with roasted veg­gies, greens and cooked Scot­tish spelt grain had great bite and flavour. With spicy salsa and gua­camole we were rolling out the door.

ED­IN­BURGH is a city that’s eas­ily cov­ered on foot so we made our way to the East End and the fa­mous In­dian eatery, Khushi’s, while local food­ies feared this might be over­shad­owed by the open­ing of uber-hip Dishoom on St An­drew’s Square, the place was burst­ing with jolly din­ers. We were in veg­gie heaven here with de­li­cious and juicy skew­ered tan­doori mush­rooms, sticky chilli pota­toes, rich and warm dahl tarka and a tasty pinach dish.

My last night in the city was spent alone so I was keen to check out Hen­der­son’s, an in­sti­tu­tion in Ed­in­burgh and more than 50 years old. The busi­ness started life as a green­gro­cer and shop sup­ply­ing the then al­ter­na­tive life­style of veg­e­tar­i­an­ism and it now has three parts to it’s veg­gie wheel; the shop and café, a buf­fet style restau­rant and a full-on ve­gan restau­rant that fea­tured, yes you guessed it, ve­gan hag­gis. Of course I had to have it.

FOR any­one who doesn’t know, reg­u­lar hag­gis is a dis­tant cousin of the pud­ding fam­ily, made of sheep or­gans which are minced and mixed with onion, oat­meal and spices be­fore be­ing stuffed into a sheep’s stom­ach lin­ing and boiled. This is the kind of grub I’d usu­ally go mad for, so I sat down and waited for the sheep free ver­sion with neeps and tat­ties and red wine gravy. This plate of food is prob­a­bly the most sat­is­fy­ing thing I’ve eaten since my ve­gan dark-side ex­per­i­ment (I’ve been dream­ing of sausage rolls) and re­minds me it doesn’t have to be all sweet potato and kim­chi ev­ery day.

The gravy was the best bit, but the tex­ture of the hag­gis was spot on and the veg­gies had ev­ery bit of their flavour and tex­ture in­tact. Desert was a sub­lime lime and av­o­cado cheese­cake with a coconut crust, el­e­gant and re­fresh­ing, I was back in ve­gan heaven.

As cities go, this was love at first sight, it’s beau­ti­ful, laden with his­tory, great food and cosy, an­cient pubs and warm, witty peo­ple. On the tram-ride back to the air­port the ticket in­spec­tor said: “Oh, you’re leav­ing us.”

Princes Street (op­po­site) is is one of the ma­jor thor­ough­fares in cen­tral Ed­in­burgh, Scot­land, and its main shop­ping street; Hen­der­son’s (above) is one of the city’s in­sti­tu­tions, pro­mot­ing veg­e­tar­i­an­ism since it was estab­lished more than 50 years ago...

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