Today my sister, her partner Anne and their kids Ciara and Reece joined us for The Eating of The Hare. They took our bigger boy out to lunch and Owy went to cricket, so I had a couple of hours of uninterrupted kitchen time to potter while our smaller boy slept. There is nothing nicer than feeding people that you care about, and to be feeding them food which they’d been responsible for increased the pleasure. Anne is a bit of a spoiler, so things kicked off with spiders made with sexy ice cream and Cascade soft drinks:
I’m not sure if that’s sharing or territorial pissing that you’re seeing in that picture, but that’s five year old boys for you.
My sister was keen for a slow red wine braise, and she got really lucky because today was unseasonably cold and wet – there was hail where we are and “sago snow” (pdf) about 20 minutes north at Lambert’s vineyard where they had lunch. Because wild meat is intensely flavoured, and I because I cooked it with further intense flavours, I kept the other elements very simple – King Edward potatoes boiled and mashed with a bucket and a half of butter and cream, and boiled super-fresh green beans from Choku Bai Jo.
I was surprised how much meat the hare provided – enough for four adults and two kids eating dinner (two kids not hungry at dinnertime) and leftovers for a family meal tomorrow, likely to be with some simple home-made pasta.
Those weird brown bits on top are grated chocolate, rather than some poxy exudate, btw.
If you’re lucky enough to bag a hare, here’s how you might cook it.
Wild Hare with Red Wine
Recipe adapted from Over a Tuscan Stove
First, catch your hare. Schott’s Food & Drink Miscellany says that Hannah Glasse really wrote “Take your hare when it is cas’d”, meaning skinned, but I can’t tell you how pleased I am to begin a recipe this way.
Skin and gut your hare. Joint it, rub with olive oil and leave in the fridge on a rack wrapped in muslin for three or four days. This isn’t supermarket food, and you shouldn’t be afraid of ageing the meat. That said, it’s important that the meat is draining well and not sitting in blood or other fluid. Muslin or cheesecloth over a rack resting on a roasting dish is perfect, if space-consuming. Bear with it, it’s worth it.
A couple of days before you plan to cook the hare, make this marinade:
Chop an onion, a stem of celery and a small sweet carrot into half inch pieces – you want three fairly equal piles, so adjust to what you have. Brown the veg briefly in olive oil and then add 1½ cups red wine and ¾ cup red wine vinegar (not the fancy pants kind, supermarket red wine vinegar is perfectly adequate), two or three small fresh bay leaves, a couple of generous sprigs of thyme, half a dozen peppercorns, a stick of cassia bark (or cinnamon, if that’s what you have) and a good generous slug of the gin from the freezer.
Cool the marinade completely, immerse the hare in it and pop back in the fridge for two days, rotating the pieces of meat around to ensure all of it is infused with the marinade.
Start a little after lunch to make dinner on the day of eating. Put the hare and marinade in a heavy lidded casserole dish (a roasting pan tightly covered with foil will work well). Cook at 150° celsius for about three hours, checking every now and then to rotate the pieces of hare into the juicy and less juicy parts of your pot. Let it cool enough to shred the meat from the bones with two forks, and add 1 square of finely grated Lindt 70% chocolate, a handful of prunes chopped in half, a generous tablespoonful of currants and several pieces of orange peel (I used saved blood orange peel – anyone who eats a blood orange in this house without keeping the peel hears about it until they never make that mistake again). Stir through two tablespoons of luscious lard that you rendered out of your last roast of Mountain Creek Farm Wessex Saddleback Pork. Failing that, ordinary lard or butter is your friend, despite what the Heart Foundation would have you think. Then again, they endorse some McDonalds “meals” these days for $330 000 a year, so you be your own judge. Some sharp green olives (and vinegared capers) would have been a good addition, as in the Silver Palate cookbook’s Chicken Marbella recipe, but I didn’t have any today.
Half an hour before you want to eat, warm the pot and stir a couple of tablespoons of cream through the shredded hare, chop some flat leaf parsley, make ridiculous mashed potatoes and boil some green veg. Await the acclamation for a meal that is tender, sweet and gamey without being overbearing, and sophisticated without being fussy.
The pudding basin I scored yesterday had its first use today, again with thanks to the unseasonable weather. I’d picked up some tiny delicous Josephine pears for $2.20/kg at Choku Bai Jo, and made a variation of this steamed pudding, adding dried figs in place of the crystallised ginger.
It was good.