#410 English Hare Soup

So here we are at the final recipe for the Soupchapter, ending on a blinder that couldn’t be more English, rich with claret and spiced with mace and Cayenne pepper.

I don’t really know why it took me so long to try this one; though rarely found in abundance, hare is not exactly difficult to find in season. Maybe I just kept missing the boat every year. The hare I used in this recipe I picked up from the excellent Northwest Game. So it’s not just the last souprecipe, but the last hare recipe too.

If you want to know more about hares have a look at this previous post.

This recipe comes from Antonin Carême, the legendary French chef, who worked himself from homeless child to probably the most influential cook ever. A genius patissier, he first attracted attention making elaborate edible sculptures to sit in the window of the patisserie. After some proper training he set down working on sauces, coming up with the classification of the four mother sauces, the base of all sauces in French cookery; a system still used to today. He spent quite some time working in Britain and was briefly chef to the Prince Regent. He’s appeared before on the blog, on recipe #317 Skuets, a dish comprised of sweetbreads, bacon and mushrooms cooked on a skewer, served with bread sauce.

To make the soup, heat 3 ounces of clarified butter in a flameproof casserole or large saucepan and fry until brown either a jointed young hare or the head and forequarters of an older, tougher hare. As it fries, toss in 4 ounces of diced unsmoked bacon or salt belly of pork

Once everything is a delicious brown, add a heaped tablespoon of plain flour, stir to cover the meat before add ½ bottle of red wine or claret and 1 ¾ pints of beef stock or consommé. On a medium heat, let the contents come to a bare simmer. As you wait for that to happen, pop in a large onion studded with a clove, a good pinch of Cayenne pepper, and ½ teaspoon each of ground mace and black pepper. Also toss in a decent bouquet garni, embellished with extra springs of parsley, rosemary and marjoram.

Simmer everything together very gently until the meat is tender and comes away from the bone easily. This can be anywhere between 1 ½ to 3 hours, depending on the vintage of the hare. Pass the soup through a strainer and fish out the joints, stripping the meat from the bone and cutting it into neat pieces. Salvage any pieces of the bacon and salt pork too. ‘Discard the remaining debris’, says Jane.

Return the strained soup to a cleaned pan, season with salt, and add 8 ounces of small mushrooms. Let them simmer for a few minutes before adding the hare meat and cured pork. If you like, add a tablespoon of redcurrant jelly.

#410 English Hare Soup. I think if I had cooked this soup at the beginning of this project, I wouldn’t have been able to take the gaminess of this dish. However, after eating my through several game recipes and species, I am a real convert to it and couldn’t recommend this soup highly enough (except perhaps to the uninitiated). It was beautifully rich – too rich as a starter – and I ate it over several days, where it became more and more delicious with every reheating. It’s a style of cooking game that has fallen out of favour recently, where game appears in more familiar settings such as burgers or warm salads. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, as it introduces a new generation of people to the wonders of game. Anyway, I digress. A great soup for a great evening in front of a roaring fire. 9/10.

#219 Jugged Hare

I’d heard of jugged hare before and had always assumed that ‘jugging’ meant that some strange spices were added, but it simply means that it is cooked in the jug. The idea being that the hare can cook away in the jug that is, in turn, in a pan of simmering water. The way of cooking goes back to when people had to cook over their hearths. Jugged hare therefore has gone out of fashion because we make it into a casserole or stew (as in this recipe here) in the oven. I bought the hare from Shaw meats a few months ago and had had it stowed away in the freezer for quite a while, so it was perfect as the main course of my emptying-the-cupboards themed dinner party. Here’s how to jug a hare (or a large rabbit).

First joint your hare, and if you like lard it with some bacon fat or pork back fat. It is wise to do this if the hare is not a youngling. If any blood that drains off, keep it in a bowl (in fact, if you can get the butcher to keep the blood when hanging the hare, even better), rub the hare with salt, black pepper and Cayenne pepper and place the pieces in a large stoneware jug along with an onion that has been studded with three cloves, a bouquet garni (I used, parsley, bay, rosemary and pared lemon peel), and four ounces of butter. Cover with foil and tie securely and tightly with string. Place the jug in a roasting tin half-filled with boiling water, put it on the heat and bring to a simmer and then cook on the hob or in the oven for three hours.

When cooked, remove the pieces and allow them to rest while you make the gravy. Strain the juices (there will be a surprisingly large volume) in a sauce pan and add a quarter of a pint of red wine, a chopped anchovy and a pinch more of Cayenne pepper. Bring to a simmer and thicken: either with a beurre manié made from half an ounce of butter and a tablespoon of flour mashed together and added in knobs, or by adding the blood of the beast (don’t let the sauce boil though, otherwise it’ll will go like pink scrambled eggs). The blood I had reserved was only a small amount so I popped it in at the end. Lastly, add a squeeze of lemon juice. Griggers suggests serving it with fried bread, but I went with game chips (see here), forcemeat balls (see here) kale and ‘Carrots from 1599’ (see the next entry, when I get round to writing it).


This pic makes the hare look rather unappetising, but it did look good in real life!

#219 Jugged Hare. A really good hearty winter stew this, the hare was very well-flavoured and gamey and the gravy was really delicious – very dark and very rich. Although it was good, it wasn’t as good as the hare stew I did last winter, which had a much more complex flavour. Still, it deserves an above average 6.5/10.

#95 Stewed Hare with Forcemeat Balls

I was going to leave the hare that I bought at the Farmers’ Market the other weekend for the 100th recipe, but I thought since a few people were coming over I’d cook it. There are a few recipes in the book, but I went for Stewed Hare with Forcemeat Balls. It’s relatively straightforward. Don’t be scared if you’ve never eaten hare, if you are too squeamish however you can use 6 pigeons or 3 pounds of stewing venison instead. Don’t be scared either of cooking game – all you need is a bit of patience; long, slow cooking is required, but it’s easy enough, get the thing simmering away and you can do whatever you want whilst waiting for it to cook.

FYI: please don’t all go out and order a hare from your butchers – they have had a decline in recent decades. I only bought mine because it just happened to be at the game stall. Check out the Hare Preservation Trust website for more details.


The trickiest part of this dish is the preparation of the hare itself; unless you have a good butcher who’ll joint it for you, you’ll have to do it yourself. I’m not going to go through how to do it here, but here’s a link to the River Cottage guide to jointing a rabbit, which is the same principle. I have to say: make sure you invest in sturdy knives, including a meat cleaver, otherwise it’ll be very tricky to do. Also keep any blood and the liver for thickening the stew with later. (Also, don’t tell anyone about that bit, as it may be one step too far for some folk.)

Before jointing

After jointing

Once jointed, turn the pieces of hare in plenty of seasoned flour and brown them well along with one chopped onion and 8 ounces of chopped streaky bacon in 3 ounces of lard (yes, you COULD use oil, but what’s the point in that!?) in a large stockpot or casserole. Add a teaspoon of chopped thyme, a tablespoon of chopped parsley and half a bay leaf to the pot along with enough stock to just cover everything; use either game stock or beef stock, I used half-and-half of each. Charlotte and I added the heart too; seemed silly to waster it since we were using the liver and blood too. Let the whole thing simmer gently until the meat comes away from the bone easily – around 2 or 3 hours. Now add 6 tablespoons of port and a large tablespoon or two of redcurrant jelly along with some salt and pepper and the dish is done! Use a tablespoon of flour slaked with some hot stew liquor to thicken the stew, or use the blood and mashed liver. Don’t let it boil if using blood, as it will curdle not unlike egg yolks in over-cooked custard. Charlotte and I spent a while removing bones from the meat though, so people didn’t have to worry about bones.

Now that’s done, make the forcemeat balls (named forcemeat as you are making a small amount of meat go very far – peasant food, innit?). In a bowl mix together 4 ounces of fresh breadcrumbs, 2 ounces of chopped suet, a tablespoon of chopped parsley, a teaspoon of thyme, the grated rind of half a lemon, 2 ounces of finely chopped bacon, a large egg and some salt and pepper. Form the mixture into balls of around an inch in diameter and fry them until golden in more (yes, more!) lard.

I served it all up with boiled potatoes and peas.

#95 Stewed Hare with Forcemeat Balls – 7/10. The more game I eat, the more I feel I’ve been missing out! I’m always slightly tentative about game, but this is another corker! The stew was rich and thick; hare is very gamy, but the port and redcurrant jelly helped cut through it. Given the chance, I’ll be cooking the remaining hare recipes. The surprise star though was the forcemeat balls – Grigson suggests making them for soups, so if you don’t fancy the hare, make the meatballs! The heart tasted surprisingly nice too…

The Merchant of Hoghton

We had planned a big group outing to Hoghton Tower Farmers’ Market; me, Charlotte, Kate , Pete, Ange, Chris and their wee baby Evan. It’s to be found in Preston, Lancashire, and Ange has been raving about it for ages. I had my shopping budget of £35 and was hoping to fill the freezer with exciting stuff; in particular game.


We arrived slightly hungover from the night before and were immediately impressed – lots of stall selling absolutely everything! The range of meat and game was excellent, as was the cheeses, veg, pies, cakes and everything you could ever wish for.

For my 35 notes I came away with:
1. Smoked trout fillets
2. A hare
3. A brace of partridge
4. Smoked, cured streaky bacon
5. Pigeon and pea pie
6. Mutton pie
7. Corned beef pie
8. Chocolate-covered crystallised ginger
9. Banana Tea Loaf
10. Chocolate cake

Not bad I reckon. I’m particularly interested in the hare – there are a few recipes in English Food, and I’m thinking about cooking it as the 100th dish as it is fast approaching and I need something unusual and impressive. I was going to do an elaborate Victorian pheasant dish, but you need pheasant giblets and you need to order those apparently. The hand-raised mutton pie was the pie-highlight for me, I have to say, and it has gotten me enthused to cook some mutton dishes too.

Choosing my game.

We also had an ace laugh which is just what I needed, the best bit being me and Charlotte tasting some extra-mature Lancashire blue cheese…

Charlotte: This is really good.

Me: Really creamy, nice after taste. It tastes a bit like sick; but in a good way.

Charlotte: Yeah, not your own sick.

(Pause)

Charlotte: Err..like somebody else’s….?

(Hilarity ensues)

Ange’s Celtic aggression comes out at the mere weilding of sprouts.