Hares are my favourite British mammal. They are so aloof and magnificent it is painful to shoot them, but, by God, they are good eating. I am not a believer in hanging them the old way with their guts in, but treated like a rabbit and gutted on the spot they are mild and stunning.
Serves 6 as a starter
1 tbsp flour
1 hare, jointed
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 stick celery
2 shallots (large)
6 cloves garlic
3 juniper berries
1 tsp tomato purée
1 small can Italian tomatoes
1 bottle red wine (sangiovese, ideally)
1 small bunch thyme
We are going to cook this lovely creature as a compote – a very light and delicate stew. Just be sure to pick the meat carefully and do not go too crazy with the juniper berries, or that will be all you taste.
Find a large casserole dish and heat it to medium hot on the stove top. Flour the hare pieces and fry in the oil until golden brown. Remove the meat and add the finely chopped celery, carrot, and shallot, and the whole garlic cloves. Cook on a lower heat until softened.
Now put the hare back in, add the juniper berries and the tomato purée. Whizz the tomatoes in a food processor and add them, too. Pour in enough red wine to cover the hare, and add the thyme. Put a lid on the casserole and cook on a very low simmer for three hours.
Remove the hare from the heat and allow to cool. When cool, take all the meat out and throw away the thyme. Reduce the sauce until it is thick and lovely. Pick the hare down until it is all off the bone, in big pieces, then put it back in the sauce.
I like to serve it with a spoon of parsnip purée and some truffle, but then, I can.