A few years ago Sonia the Zucchini Farmer gave me a copy of Maggie’s Kitchen. It's signed by the doyen herself; the inscription reads
I hear you love to cook. Have fun with my food.
Best Wishes, Maggie Beer.
It’s become a prized possession but not for the obvious reason.
Soni is shy. She gets star struck easily. Last year at a charity lunch, Soni was rendered mute for several hours by a local radio announcer! Sonia would have been beside herself speaking to Maggie. This book is special to me, because a friend cared enough to go far out of her comfort zone to give me a present she knew I would treasure.
This week’s time-worn tucker post is not an old recipe, but it is an ingredient that our forebears ate plenty of....
pot-roasted hare with prunes and mustard
Maggie’s recipe calls for rabbit, but (mercifully) there aren't any of those in Queensland. I use hares that Sonia's boys have procured for me. Sometimes they’re even kind enough to butcher them for me.
2 hares, cleaned and dressed
2 stalks sage
6 stalks thyme
2 tbs Dijon mustard
¼ cup olive oil, plus extra for cooking
12 pickling onions (or golden shallots)
100g pitted prunes
⅓ cup verjuice
½ cup chicken stock
salt and pepper to season
Joint hare into front and back legs. Cut the saddle into three pieces, removing the sinew. There’s a great instructional video on youtube – how to joint a rabbit.
Combine the sage, thyme, mustard and olive oil in a large bowl. Add the hare pieces and marinate for at least an hour.
Meanwhile blanch the onions in a saucepan of simmering water for ten minutes. Cool slightly, then peel and set aside.
Heat 40g butter and a little olive oil in a heavy based pan over a medium heat until the butter is nut brown. Add the hare pieces and gently cook over a low heat, turning occasionally for four minutes or until lightly coloured, remove and set aside. Add a little more olive oil, then add onions and cook for five minutes or until golden. Return the hare to the pan, add the prunes then deglaze the pan with verjuice.
Add the chicken stock and simmer covered for four minutes. It’s important not to overcook the hare or it becomes tough. Watch it carefully and remove it as soon as it’s cooked. After removing the hare, reduce the pan juices until syrupy.
Return the hare to the sauce, then season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.
Maggie suggests serving it with soft polenta. I've also served it with savoury semolina and mashed potato – both are nice accompaniments. The original recipe includes the liver and kidneys of the rabbit. I've tried it, but discovered I'm team no-kidneys.
I've made this recipe half a dozen times now. Once, when I was worried there wouldn't be enough to go around, I served a pot of rabbit and a pot of chicken cooked in the same way. At the end of dinner the hare was gone, but chicken remained – such is the magic of Maggie and her treatment of maligned ingredients!
have you tried hare?
what’s your most prized possession?
do you get star struck?
have you read the other book about nut brown hares?