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Hare today, gone tomorrow…

Plated and sated: slow-cooked haunch of hare

It’s game season. Living in the countryside is giving me access to loads of rather exotic or decadent-sounding fowl and beasts at reasonable prices, and whereas I’d have once thought this was the preserve of the landed gentry and those with a penchant for head-to-toe tweed, I’m becoming a convert to wild, natural meats. It’s often surprisingly good value, very seasonal, normally local, and a lot of it’s new to me.

So when I was in the market doing my weekly shop I espied hare on the butcher’s blackboard I decided I needed to take home a new furry friend for the pot. My interest had been piqued by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s weighty ‘River Cottage Meat book‘ which I got for Christmas, so I’d been reading about hare and it was fresh in my mind. This was a big beast… 8 quid for a 5lb (2kg) animal and I got the butcher to take off the legs and cut the saddle into four roughly equal pieces.

I don’t think I’ve ever had hare before (possibly in a pie, but don’t quote me on that). However I’ve cooked rabbit enough to have some kind of reference, and have found that as it’s so lean it needs to be cooked with respect and lots of moisture. My oven’s been playing up for a while, so I elected to use the slow cooker to make a slow, unctuous game-y casserole.

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Breast is best… a plump woodpigeon starter

Pan-fried pigeon breast with air-dried ham and Brie de Meaux with truffles

Here’s a perfect woodpigeon breast, wrapped lovingly in locally artisan air-cured ham, and filled with a decadent slice of Brie de Meaux with a truffle centre. Flash fried and served simply on a bed of watercress and baby spinach, garnished with a Meaux mustard and balsamic vinaigrette. A rich but perfectly balanced starter… ideal for the Christmas feast.