Mark Dodson, chef-patron at the Mason's Arms at Knowstone, shows Michael Raffael one of the less grisly, but more profitable, ways to cook hare
Ask a British chef what comes to mind when he hears "hare" and he'll say "jugged". Pop the same question to a French one and the answer will be "lièvre Á la royale". Both dishes are thickened with the hare's blood, liver or both. It's a powerful taste that appeals to game connoisseurs, but not to everyone.
The good news is that there are less grisly ways to cook it. Nor does it have to be hung for weeks, as our forefathers advised. Game suppliers will skin and paunch hares, removing another task that will put off some. A further incentive is the price. Larger than wild rabbit, it gives four generous portions for £10 or less, cheaper than special breeds of farmed rabbit such as Rex du Poitou. For meat that tastes as distinctive as, say, roebuck, it's excellent value for money.
Á¢Â-Â Cost price: Á£9.50
Á¢Â-Â Yield: four portions
Á¢Â-Â Cost price per portion including garnishes: Á£3 (approximately)
Á¢Â-Â Selling price: Á£15 (including VAT at 20%)
Á¢Â-Â Profit: Á£9.50
Á¢Â-Â Batch size: 20 portions
Á¢Â-Â Profit: Á£190 76%]
For photography, chef Mark Dodson worked with one hare. His normal batch size is five hares (20 portions). His MasonÁ¢ÂÂs Arms has 28 seats and will sell them over a weekend.
Day 1: Joint and bone the hare. Store the loins in oil. Cook the basic stock for four to six hours.
Day 2: Simmer the legs till they fall off the bone; about three hours. Make the sauce with reduced stock from the legs.
Prepare the Savoy cabbage balls.
During service: Poach the cabbage; sear, rest and carve the loin; cream the legs.
Note: Mark Dodson doesnÁ¢ÂÂt use the hare blood for his recipe. Nor does he need the offal Á¢ÂÂ" the liver can be quite strongly flavoured. Chefs intending to make hare Á la royale or jugged hare will find the coagulated blood inside the chest cavity at the neck end.
Stage 1: Legs and carcass Lay the hare on the chopping board, stomach down.
Feel for the natural conformation around the shoulder blade. Cut around it. Remove the shoulder in a single piece. Repeat with the second one.
Turn over the carcass and extract blood and offal from the breast cavity.
Split the hare down the middle of the breast. Flatten the ribs. This makes it easier to joint. Turn it back on to its belly.
The hind legs slot into the pelvis. Feel for the natural conformation of the leg muscle. Cut around it. Loosen the bone from its socket and remove from the carcasses.
Keeping the knife tip tight against the backbone, free the pelvic bone from the carcass. This allows you to remove the whole loin without damaging the muscle.
Stage 2: Loin This eye muscle tapers significantly from the narrow (shoulder) end to the meatier hindquarters.
To remove each loin, cut through the skin along one side of the backbone.
Keeping the boning knife blade tight against the knobbly vertebrae, loosen the loin and free it from the back. Repeat with the second loin.
Stage 3: Trimming the loins You have to remove two layers: the first, like a corset, is thicker; the transparent second one is sinew.
Ease the first layer from the loin, using the knife to prise it off, but avoid cutting.
Lay the loin on the board, sinew down. Start at the narrow end. Keeping the knife blade almost flat against the board, remove the sinew as though you were skinning a fish: hold the end of the loin with one hand and slide the knife edge towards the other with a slight sawing action.
Put the loins in a container. Cover with oil. Add two or three juniper berries and half a bayleaf per loin. Chill until needed.
This is a classic recipe. Depending on how many carcasses/bones you are working with, you can either start it off in the oven or on the range.
After jointing and trimming, youÁ¢ÂÂll have about 50% of the original carcass weight for stock. Because hare has a distinctive taste, donÁ¢ÂÂt combine it with feathered game.
70ml oil (sunflower, pomace)
1kg hare (shoulders, carcass and trimmings)
250g carrot, onion and celery mirepoix
12g tomato purÁÂ©e
Flavourings to taste: bayleaf, juniper, peppercorns
Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Brown the hare. Add the mirepoix and tomato and sweat it until it starts to colour. Pour over enough water to cover Á¢ÂÂ" three to four litres. Boil, skim and simmer for four to six hours. Top up with water if necessary, but aim for about three litres of ready-to-use broth.
You may require only half of this for the legs and sauce, but the rest can be turned into soup.
2 hare legs
150ml red wine
10g tomato purÁÂ©e
100ml double cream
Salt and pepper
Heat the oil in a pan that will just take the two legs. Brown them on both sides. Deglaze the pan with wine. Scrape any residue on the bottom of the pan and let the wine evaporate. Add the mirepoix plus tomato purÁÂ©e and continue cooking till it starts to soften. Cover generously with stock. Boil and skim. Simmer on the side of the range until the meat almost falls off the bone. Make sure the meat is covered throughout.
Take the meat off the bone. Flake it with a fork as for rillettes.
Put the flaked meat in a small pan. Pour over the cream. Boil till the meat is well coated with the reduced cream and season. Keep hot.
Simply reduce the wine broth in which the legs were cooked by about three-quarters, taking care to skim it well. Strain through a chinois. Adjust the seasoning. It should not be a sticky sauce, but well-flavoured.
Savoy Cabbage balls
Savoy cabbage size will vary. A small one will have at least five usable wrapping leaves.
1 small to medium Savoy cabbage
50g blanched carrot brunoise
60g smoked streaky bacon lardons, poached
100ml dry white wine
Salt and pepper
Remove the outer cabbage leaves and discard them. Pull off five large scallop-shaped leaves and reserve (16). Quarter the cabbage, core it and shred the rest of the leaves.
Melt the butter and sweat the carrot and bacon. Add the shredded cabbage. When it wilts add the wine. Simmer until the cabbage is almost tender and season.
Blanch the large leaves for five minutes in salted water and transfer them to a bowl of iced water.
For each ball, spread a large square of film on the worktop. Lay a blanched leaf on it with the rib uppermost. Pare away the ribÁ¢ÂÂs surface Á¢ÂÂ" just the thick bit at the bottom Á¢ÂÂ" but keep the leaf intact. Turn it over. Spoon a generous tablespoon of shredded cabbage on it. Pull the edges to the centre and then form it into a ball by wrapping the film tightly around it. Knot the film. Chill until needed.
Poach the cabbage to order for at least five minutes. When serving, cut away the film.
HARE TWO WAYSIngredients
1/2 loin of hare
Salt and pepper
120g flaked leg meat in cream
1 cabbage ball
60ml (approx) hare sauce
Seasonal vegetable garnishes
Season the hare on all sides. Heat the butter in a small pan. Brown the loin on all sides. Time varies according to thickness, but less than five minutes. Rest until plating.
Put a ring (about 8cm) in the centre of a plate. Spoon the creamed leg meat into it and spread evenly.
Slice the loin on the slant and cover the leg meat. Remove the ring. Put the cabbage ball on the hare loin.
Arrange garnishes (here: cranberries, girolles, chestnuts and Á¢ÂÂchÁÂ¢teauÁ¢ÂÂ potatoes) around the meat and finish with sauce.
FACTThereÁ¢ÂÂs no close season for hare in England and Scotland, but home-killed animals canÁ¢ÂÂt be sold by game dealers between March and August
Choose hares that are younger. They should be killed cleanly, ideally with a rifle, so that they donÁ¢ÂÂt contain pellets or shot damage. The modern taste is NOT for game thatÁ¢ÂÂs high. ItÁ¢ÂÂs better to do the prep straight away without hanging.
Tricks and tips
Á¢Â-Â Remove any Á¢ÂÂfluffÁ¢ÂÂ on the hare before starting
Á¢Â-Â When boning the fillet, listen for the click of the knife against the backbone
Á¢Â-Â For lardons, buy a piece of streaky bacon and poach it for about one hour; chill and then slice Á¢ÂÂ" as good as pancetta
Á¢Â-Â When blanching cabbage leaves pinch the central rib; It should be almost crushable
Á¢Â-Â If possible, fry the whole loin as a piece; it shrinks less and cooks better
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Michel RouxÁ¢ÂÂs head chef at the Waterside Inn for 13 years, followed by three years as executive chef at Cliveden, Mark Dodson jacked in a high-profile career to buy the MasonÁ¢ÂÂs Arms at Knowstone Á¢ÂÂ" population 422 Á¢ÂÂ" on the edge of Exmoor six years ago. At his 28-seat restaurant and pub, he and wife Sarah balance the rustic surroundings with the high expectations of incomers and second-home owners who travel to North Devon at weekends and in summer. Helped in the kitchen by staff heÁ¢ÂÂs trained himself, in a gadget-free kitchen -not even a salamander Á¢ÂÂ" he cooks Michelin-starred food adapted to prices that the region can command. The inn was named Michelin Pub of the Year in 2010.