Monday, 5 August 2013

Wild boar ragout

I've started going to the occasional Manchester Meat Club evening over the last few months - basically, it's an evening of eating, drinking and butchery, focusing on a different beast each time and with a proper butcher teaching us about different cuts and how to cook them. I'm solidly in favour of this, as I believe if you're going to eat meat you shouldn't just pick up a slab of it on a cling-filmed polystyrene tray at the supermarket. You should understand it, respect it and be prepared to pay a bit more and eat a bit less so you can get really good quality meat.

Back in the spring I went to a Meat Club night on ground game, came home with a whole hare and made hare au vin with it. Not long after, I went to their class on wild boar. Boar is something I've eaten a lot in restaurants, particularly abroad, but it's hard to find here unless you have a good butcher on your doorstep or the sort of artisan deli or farmers' market where you can pick up pate or boar salami. The boar on the night was butchered in front of us, as well as compared to a pig that was brought in so we could look at size differences etc, then cooked for us in different ways.

At the end of the night, I managed to scrounge a tiny bit of the scrag end from the butcher as he finished taking the meat off the carcass. The scrag is the neck and can sometimes be tough so be flexible with cooking times. This recipe here is something I've made a few times with one of the cheaper cuts of pork but lends itself well to its gamier cousin.

What you need:
150g stewing cut of wild boar (I used scrag)
1 onion, finely chopped
Olive oil
1 red pepper, roughly diced
1/2 fennel bulb, roughly diced
Chicken stock
1 tsp fennel seeds
Pinch of dried thyme
1 bayleaf

What to do:
Trim any fat off the meat and cut it into cubes. Sweat the onion in some olive oil then brown the meat. Deglaze the pan with a very generous glug of vermouth, then add the red pepper and fennel. Add the herbs and seasoning, then top up the liquid with about 150ml of chicken stock. Simmer very gently for 2 hours on the hob.

To serve, cut the other half of the fennel bulb into wedges and griddle until tender.

Cook's tips:
If you can't get hold of boar meat, use pork - the neck, chump,and the hand and spring are all cheap, tougher cuts that lend themselves well to a nice slow braise.