Wild hare ragu

After the excitement of gutting and skinning the hare, it hung in the garage for the rest of the week until it was ready to cook. Game can be hung for a number of days (and weeks I’m told, but lets not go too mad) and it will be fine. Other meats you have to be careful, but for some reason game is fine.

My nervousness around the strong flavour of the meat increased as I started to joint the hare. It’s flesh was easily as dark as beef or venison and the smell was quite distinctive – kind of gamey with a metallic tang to it. And on cooking, there was definitely more than a whiff of countryside, iron and something quite undefinable, which I can’t define.

Rather than opt for the hard core jugged hare recipe in Hugh’s seminal Meat Bible (which uses blood and liver, both of which I had in the fridge, in tupperware in case you’re worried about the hygiene scenario) I opted for the allegedly diner friendly Hare Ragu, which was adapted from a rabbit recipe.

In this recipe, one basically cooks the hare in a stock pot for 3 hours in the oven, nice and slow, with a whole range of classic stock pot ingredients. When cooked, the liquor is strained and reduced and the hare is picked off the carcass and added to the sauce. Here’s when you realise hares have massively muscular legs and back muscles and not a lot else, but this was a big fella and there was plenty of meat.

The resulting Ragu sauce was beautifully rich and contained some of the most tender meat I’ve ever tasted. My initial worry about the strength of game flavour seemed like sheer amateur’s folly – there was still a definite twang of something different, a deep resonant flavour lurking in the background, but it didn’t rankle.

Our dinner guests declared it a huge success: ‘it was lovely, and not as bad as we thought it was going to be’. So – that’s a success in my book when there was a palpable sense of unease prior to sitting down.

All in all it was worth the effort and hassle and would I cook it again? Most definitely.

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