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.

Rather than following a recipe I pretty much made this up as I went along, trying to pair off flavours and ingredients which felt (and tasted) good together. Some previous lessons applied (try not to dry out game when cooking it, lard it well and cook it slowly) and some lessons learned (go easy on the crushed juniper berries, take meat off the bone and seal the pieces rather than a whole haunch).

All in all I was happy with the result … it was a hearty, gutsy and warming plate to enjoy after an afternoon stomping around the hills in deep snow. Plus I cooked some garlicky sausages in the remaining liquor the next day, before reducing it down to a thick dark gravy to top a mound of fluffy mash.

And as I still have most of the beast in the freezer I’ve got more chances to experiment with this game meat before the winter’s out.

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