Monday, 13 May 2013

Hare au vin

I regularly cook rabbit - finding hare is much harder but a good butcher should be able to supply it (and I know Lidl sometimes has packs of hare legs in its freezer section). There's a lot of meat on a hare, particularly the hind legs which are its powerhouse and thus have plenty of well-developed muscle. The forelegs are less meaty but still pack flavour, so if you have them then chuck them in the pot too.

I was lucky enough recently to attend a butchery class on game where I learned how to skin rabbits and hares plus butcher them. It was bloody but fun and I came away with a new skill. The pics are here. I brought a prepped whole hare home to joint. The legs went in the slow cooker - the breast fillets are in my freezer and will go into a game pie at some point.

This recipe is based on the classic French coq au vin (which uses a rooster rather than a chicken) and makes 2 portions, so you can freeze one for another day.

What you need:
Hare legs - 2 hind (and 2 fore, if you have them)
1 bottle of red wine
1 bouquet garni
2-3 bay leaves
4-5 slivers of dried orange peel
Freshly ground black pepper
6 sun-dried tomatoes
A couple of sprigs fresh thyme

12 dried prunes
6 baby onions or shallots, peeled and left whole
12 dried porcini
Tomato purée, about a tablespoon
Salt and pepper

What to do: 
Marinate the hare overnight with all the aromatics and the bottle of wine. Next day, add the rest of the ingredients - cut the onions in half leaving the root intact if they are a little on the large side. Then cook in a slow cooker for around 8 hours, or in the oven at 120-140C for around 5 hours. Check the seasoning and adjust if needed. Serve with plenty of buttery root mash (here, I used turnip, swede and carrot).

Cook's tips:
Keep an eye on the liquid levels during cooking and top up if it looks like drying out. The gravy should finish up thickish and glossy. The meat should be falling off the bone by the end of cooking - watch out for very small bones, particularly from the forelegs.

Making dried orange peel is very easy. Use a vegetable peeler to pare strips of rind off the fruit, taking care to avoid the pith. Spread the peel out on a baking tray and leave to dry naturally for 2-3 days (if you have an airing cupboard, it's ideal). Then store in an airtight jar. They keep for ages and are a good flavouring for red meats, particularly venison and game.

To add a note of spice to the marinade, try a cinnamon stick and 2-3 star anise.