Saturday 24 October 2015

Sweet and Strong Hare

On Saturday mornings, when all in my household are well and the weather is not too horrific, you will find me at our local farmers' market. It is a relatively small affair, with only some 30 or so stalls in total on a busy week, but there you can find items you really can't find easily in your local supermarket. The vegetables are ugly and obscure, the eggs don't just come from hens, and the hand crafted items are, well, very obviously hand crafted, shall we say.

The main draw for me is the meat. Puddledub bacon is the best bacon you'll find in Scotland. Really. And you can get great other cuts of really good meat at far cheaper prices than the butcher would offer for the same stuff. For example, the chickens I buy there I pay about £10 for (which is still pricey compared to a supermarket factory farmed bird, I know) but at the butcher's the same bird will cost you £25.

The first time I tried hare was when my husband brought home a bloody, skinned carcass from the farm where he worked and announced it would be dinner. I was skeptical, but he prepared jugged hare it was, indeed, very flavourful. Hares are far bigger than rabbits, so you really get a good amount of meat off of one of these violent creatures.

My preferred recipe now is one found in a book my mother sent me, an Italian cookbook named The Silver Spoon, which is some kind of Italian institution (or so its cover tells me). Its secret ingredient is chocolate - a small amount is all you need to add complexity and depth to the sauce enveloping the hare. You basically just slowly simmer the meat in some booze and stock until it is tender, then add sultanas and simmer some more, then some nuts, dark chocolate, vinegar and a tiny bit of sugar. Once that all comes together, it's easiest to just remove all the meat and put it in the sauce for simple serving, which we did alongside some roast potatoes and cauliflower in cheese sauce. No calories were counted in the creation of this meal.

For a good cauliflower cheese I recommend you try Nigella Lawson's recipe. For the next time you bag yourself a hare, try this recipe below:

Sweet and Strong Hare
from The Silver Spoon
serves 6-8

2 Tbsp olive oil
25g butter
40g smoked bacon bits
1 hare, cut into pieces
2 Tbsp plain flour
175ml red wine
175ml meat stock
1 bay leaf
50g sultanas
25g pine nuts or sliced almonds
25g plain chocolate, grated
1 tsp white wine vinegar
t tsp sugar
salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil and butter in a pan, add the bacon bits and hare and cook over a medium heat, turning and stirring frequently, until the pieces of hare are browned all over. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with half the flour, mix well and cook for about 10 minutes. Pour in the wine and stock, add the bay leaf, lower the heat and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours. Meanwhile, put the sultanas in a bowl, add warm water to cover, and leave to soak for 15 minutes, then drain and squeeze out. Stir the sultanas and pine nuts into the pan and simmer for a further 30 minutes. Mix together the chocolate, the remaining flour, the vinegar, sugar and a pinch of salt in a bowl, then stir in 3-4 Tbsp water. Pour the mixture into the pan and bring just to the boil. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Serve the hare covered in this ancient chocolate sauce. 

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