Whilst not to everyone’s taste, if treated with care the common hare can be transformed from a malodorous critter to a delicate and subtle dish. This, however, can depend very much on the animal’s diet and age. I would avoid older, whiffy ones if possible, but in the difficult world of hunter-gathering, beggars can’t always be choosers.
Unlike game birds, I tend not to hang the hares once gralloched, preferring instead to marinate the meat for a length of time. Once dispatched and skinned, I normally quarter the carcass and cover it in red wine, carrots, celery and bay leave for up to 2 days at the back of the fridge.
I find that this is the surest way to remove some of the unpleasant strength of the meat, whilst leaving enough flavor to recognize the distinctive taste once cooked. Having prepared and eaten hare Italy, I find that I can skip the marinade as the meat is generally less dark, softer and more subtle in the U.K. I can only surmise that the difference is due to diet.
1 kilo of hare, butchered, quarter, marinated and minced
750 gr of tomato puree
100 gr of celery
100 gr of carrots
100 gr of white onions
1 clove of garlic
A small handful of bay leaves
A small handful of rosemary
A small glass of red wine
Like all ragùs begin with making your soffrito. Finely chop your onions, carrots, and celery and over a low flame, cook in a heavy-bottomed saucepan with a little olive oil. Add your whole garlic clove and a few bay leaves. The trick is to really sweat the onions over low heat, so don’t rush!
After 10 mins or so, when everything has softened nicely, add your minced hare meat with your rosemary finely chopped. Once the meat has browned nicely, add your glass of wine and salt and pepper to taste and cook for a further 10 mins or so.
Once the wine has almost evaporated, add your tomato puree and more wine if it is looking on the dry side.
Stir everything well, and on the lowest possible flame, cover the pan and leave for around 4 hours. Every so often return to stir a little to prevent it from sticking to the bottom. At the end of the process, locate and remove the garlic clove and leave your ragù to rest in the fridge overnight.
The next day, portion out and reheat to serve with egg pappardelle or tagliatelle. ‘Dry’ pasta such as spaghetti or penne doesn’t work, so make sure that you either make or buy fresh egg ‘pasta all’ uovo.’ The difference is highly noticeable!