Rupert Waites, head chef, master forager and wild flavour expert at Buck & Birch, may these days spend most of his time conjuring award winning spirits and liqueurs from his findings but that doesn’t mean he can’t find time for a spot of cooking.
Given his love of wild game, his reluctance to discard anything and the fact that he shares his birthday with auld Rabbie Burns himself, it feels apt therefore that he should share with you one of his favourite and signature dishes, the three beast Haggis, or Staggis if you will.
First presented at the Buck & Birch pop up dining events this particular dish evolved to become the centrepiece and a tradition at the annual meetup of the Association of Foragers of which Chef Waites is a long standing member, where like minded enthusiasts and professionals meet up to discuss the merits, importance, opportunity and future of foraging.
Tradition dictates haggis should be accompanied by neeps and tatties, but Rupert likes to elevate the dish with a mound of sticky, sweet, braised red cabbage, made all the more indulgent with a generous glug of Aelder Elixir, Buck & Birch’s award winning elderberry liqueur.
So here it is, the recipe for quite possibly the most indulgent, decadent and certainly wild Burns supper going. And if it seems a little daunting to prepare from scratch a butcher bought haggis will work just fine - just remember the Aelder braised cabbage as it makes all the difference!
Beef bung for stuffing
500g toasted pinhead oatmeal
200g of well cared for, organic, minced pork fat or belly.
1.4kg wild game pluck (heart, lungs liver), ½ diced, ½ minced
500g of mixed wild game trimmings
100g finely diced onion
3 cloves of garlic chopped fine
1.5 litres game stock
6g juniper berries
6g dried coriander seed
2g ground mace
6g cracked black pepper
6g fresh thyme
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt to taste
Toast the oatmeal and set aside. In a large pan fry the onion, garlic and dried spices until onions are translucent before adding the meat and browning for 5 minutes (some prefer to cook the meat first but this method keeps the finished haggis more juicy).
Add the oatmeal and ½ the stock and keep stirring, adding the remainder of the stock gradually until the oatmeal is al dente. Once done, season with lemon juice, fresh thyme and salt to taste.
Let the haggis cool before spooning the mixture into the soaked, rinsed ox bung. Be aware the filling swells as it cooks, so pack quite loosely, and keep a little bung at each end. When the haggis is the size required, expel any extra air, pinch, tie with string and cut with scissors.
Tie the new end of the bung, and continue stuffing. Freeze any spare haggises.
To cook the final haggis poach gently at about 83 degrees Celsius for half an hour to 45 minutes.
THE AELDER BRAISED RED CABBAGE
1 small red cabbage
1 sliced red onion
70g soft light brown sugar
70ml cider vinegar
100ml Aelder Elixir
One large knob of butter
Sprigs of thyme
Quarter the red cabbage and remove the core, then finely shred. Tip into a large pan with the red onion, brown sugar, cider vinegar, Aelder Elixir, thyme and butter and season well. Bring to a simmer, then cover with a lid, lower the heat and cook for 1 1/ 2 hrs, stirring every so often. Remove the lid and continue cooking for 30 mins until tender and the liquid is reduced and glossy.
“I love haggis and will happily eat it all year round. It will stand up to all sorts of experimenting and can be cooked out fully in the pan and frozen in containers if you don’t want a showpiece pudding. It’s a fine and versatile ingredient. Try spring rolls or haggis lasagne. Mixed with venison jus it makes a very moppable sauce for venison loin and mushrooms. Dried it makes crisps, and powdered it’s a fine topping for a savoury game trifle. Go experiment.”
-Rupert Waites. Co founder and wild flavour wizard.