- 1 large brown hare, skinned, plus its blood (liver optional)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 100g salt pork, pancetta or bacon, cut into 2cm pieces
- 1 large carrot, sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 onion or 5-6 shallots, sliced
- 30g butter
- 1 rounded tablespoon plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
- 1 bottle of good red wine, such as Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon
- 100ml brandy
- A bouquet garni of thyme, bay and parsley
- 2 squares of bitter chocolate, grated (optional but very worthwhile)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Joint the hare with a heavy knife or meat cleaver, cutting off its legs and dividing the saddle into 5 or 6 pieces (you could ask your butcher to do this). Set aside.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the bacon and sweat for a few minutes. Add the carrot, garlic and onion or shallots and cook for a few minutes longer. Transfer the bacon and vegetables to a large, heavy, flameproof casserole (in which the hare will also be cooked). Put the frying pan back over a low heat and add the butter. Turn the pieces of hare in the seasoned flour, then add them to the pan and fry gently, turning occasionally, until they are nicely browned. Transfer the meat to the casserole. Pour over the wine, brandy and just enough water to barely cover the meat, then add the bouquet garni. Season with salt and pepper and bring the mixture to a very gentle simmer. Cover and cook over a gentle heat, or in a slow oven (120°C/Gas Mark 1/2), for 2-3 hours. The hare is cooked when the meat is quite tender and begins to come away from the bone.
The next stage is to make a liaison of the blood and the cooking liquid. This has to be done carefully if the sauce is not to separate, but even if it does it is only the appearance, not the flavour, that will be affected. Remove the pieces of hare from the pot and put them in a warmed dish. Strain the stock through a sieve to remove the vegetables and herbs, then return it to the pan. Boil hard to reduce by about a third, then remove from the heat.
Have the blood ready in a small mixing basin. Spoon a little of the cooking liquid into the blood to warm and thin it, then stir well. Add the grated chocolate to the pot, if using. Then ladle in the warmed blood a little at a time, stirring as you go. If you have the hare’s liver, chop it very finely – almost to a purée – and add it to the pan. When the liaison is smooth and well blended, return to the heat and bring back to the boil. Return the pieces of hare to the pot and bring back to a gentle simmer before serving.
We had the hare with a simple mashed potato, it really doesn’t need anything else.
“The season for hares is from September to the end of February. During this time, any good butcher should be able get you a hare if you give him a bit of notice. When you order it, mention that you intend to jug it, and ask the butcher to save the blood for you. The hare should be hung for four or five days – more only if you like a very gamy flavour”: advice from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall.