Hare and Celery Casserole

Hare is always exceedingly good value, divided into joints for jugged or casseroled hare for four, a roast saddle for two, and leftovers to serve in soup or with pasta.

Do not be daunted by the length of the hare recipe. It is no more than the standard casserole recipe, which you can adapt to other meats, first frying the onions, then browning the meat, next adding the prepared vegetables, and finally deglazing the pan and adding the seasonings. After that, once in the oven, the casserole looks after itself.

Ingredients

  • 1 hare – see recipe
  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 1 onion, peeled and sliced
  • 2 or 3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 head of celery
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 juniper berries, crushed
  • seeds of 3 cardamom pods
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • salt and pepper

Method

Have the hare jointed by your butcher, with the saddle cut into three pieces. Wipe all over inside and out with damp paper towels, and snip off the transparent skin on the back and legs. The boniest bits, from the rib cage, can be removed altogether and used for making stock.

Put the wine in a saucepan and reduce it by half. If the wine was quite thin and sharp to begin with, it will now be even more so. Add three or four small sugar lumps. There’s nothing like chaptalization to round out an iffy wine.

Gently fry the onion and garlic in the oil until golden brown, and transfer it to a casserole.

Separate the celery stalks, remove the stringy parts and any brown ends. Rinse thoroughly and cut into thumb-size batons. Put these too in the bottom of the casserole.

Brown the pieces of hare in the same pan in which you fried the onions, and transfer them to the casserole. Sprinkle the flour in the frying pan, and stir and scrape up the residues, gradually adding the wine, stirring to make a smooth sauce. If it becomes lumpy despite your best efforts, simply strain the mixture through a sieve over the meat. Add the seasonings to the casserole, stir in well, put on the lid and cook in a low oven, 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2 for about 3 hours, or at 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 for 1½ to 2 hours.

This casserole is delicious served with garlic mashed potatoes – you boil the peeled garlic with the potatoes and mash both together. If you like the flavour, you can add a little creamed horseradish to the mash, or serve it separately.

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