Little do you know (actually I'm pretty sure you've all long assumed, and quite rightly) that Lentil is the primary voice behind our stories. But this week I (Matt) am stepping in to talk about one dish that is mine and mine alone.
*Please note, we know you can't all hunt for hare. You will find it at all good produce markets and often at farmers markets OR replace it with a stewing cut of beef with bones in.
For us, part of living here is being in touch with the shifting patterns of wild foods and we have dedicated a whole chapter in the book to it. Gathering wild food is such an incredibly rewarding act. Without wanting to state the obvious, there is something just so primal about it, and the hunt for wild delights, whether plant, animal or fungi (or mineral!), brings your whole being alive in a way few things seem to. Just like when you raise your own animals, taking a small, wild life always sucks, no matter how many times you do it. It doesn't feel 'bad', it happens quite naturally, but I wouldn't say it's a pleasure. But it's incredibly rewarding to have control over how that life ends and to know that there was no suffering. That it was quick, efficient and painless. In this case it is also rewarding to know that you are helping to control an introduced animal.
Wild meats tend to be leaner than farmed meats and will often turn outtough and dry if cooked too fast or for too long. In this way they are just like secondary cuts in general. But despite this, both wild meats and these so called 'secondary' cuts have always been prized in traditional cuisines for their incredible flavour. I guess it all comes down to the cooking.
When you break it down, this recipe is really just a great demonstration of the kind of humble stewing technique that is the backbone of those same cuisines. A technique that always guaranteed tender results no matter what tough or wild cut you could get your hands on. Ragù in particular is the ultimate stewing dish to me. Must be my Italian ancestry coming out! And in Italy wild meats are king.
Everyone knows about wild rabbits, but for some reason their elusive cousin, the hare, is a seldom talked about little creature. Wild hare, or jackrabbits, are an introduced species in Australia and are everywhere where we live, regarded as a ‘pest’ here and throughout the country. They are a great wild meat, far darker and gamier than rabbit. Actually, hare meat is more akin to beef than anything else.
This recipe is the perfect approach to it, and may change the way you think about the humble hare. The finished dish is rich in flavour, a little piquant, and partners superbly with our sourdough pasta (recipe in the book!), some quality aged Parmesan and a fresh salad. I hope you enjoy.
*It seems like there are a lot of ingredients in this recipe, but you can use whatever you have at hand, this is traditional peasant food after all. It's the technique that is key. Let us know how your variations go in the comments below.
Serves 6 // Time 5.5 hours
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 onions, finely diced
2 carrots, finely diced
1 small garlic bulb, skin on with roots trimmed, sliced crossways
10 rosemary sprigs, leaves stripped
10 sweet marjoram sprigs, leaves stripped
10 oregano sprigs, leaves stripped
1 teaspoon ground black pepper, plus extra
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 dried red chillies
1.5 kg hare, including bones, cut into 2 or 3 sections
250 ml (1 cup) red wine (plus a glass for you!)
45 ml Balsamic vinegar
1 litre (4 cups) passata
1 teaspoon unrefined salt
1 1/2 tablespoons unrefined sugar (e.g. rapadura)
600 g fresh or 300 g dry gluten-free or whole-wheat pasta
Finely chopped parsley, to serve
Quality Parmesan, to serve
Heat a generous splash of oil in a heavy, cast-iron pot (a heavy pot is key for the slow poach at the end) over medium heat and sauté the onion until just soft. Add the carrot, garlic, herbs, spices and chillies and continue to sauté until the onions have caramelised – you may need to add a little more oil. Tip the mixture into a large bowl and return the pot to the stove.
Add a little more oil to the pot along with the hare. Brown the pieces of hare on one side for 3 minutes without moving them, then turn and repeat. Once browned, tip the hare in with the vegetable mixture and return the pot to the stove again.
Add the wine and 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar to the pot and simmer for 1 minute, stirring to deglaze. Return the hare to the pot, followed by the vegetables and passata. Bring to the boil, and then reduce to a bare simmer. Place the lid on the pot and simmer for 2 1/2 hours.
After 2 1/2 hours, turn the heat off and leave to poach for at least 2, and up to 8, hours – we often make this dish after dinner and leave it to poach overnight to enjoy the next day for lunch.
After the pot has cooled, pull the meat from the bones and chop it finely. Return the meat to the pot, cover and bring back to the boil. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar and the sugar and simmer with the lid off to reduce while you cook the pasta.
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add a glug of olive oil and a generous pinch of salt. Turn down to a gentle boil and gently place your pasta in the water. Cook until just soft, drain and portion into bowls. Top with the ragu and finish with a drizzle of oil, some parsley, Parmesan and some pepper. Buon appetito!