The Eighth Day: Saddle of Hare with Pepper Chestnut Puree

A hare

Aleister Crowley records another delicious meal in John St. John: The Record of the Magical Retirement of G. H. Frater, O∴ M∴, The Eighth Day, “7.15. Arrived at the Secret Restaurant. Ordered 6 oysters, Rable de Lièvre poivrade purée de marrons [Saddle of Hare with pepper chestnut puree], and Glace ‘Casserole’ with a small bottle of Perrier Water.”

A hareIngredients

For the jus

  • 2 hares, skinned
  • 6 tbs olive oil
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 celery stick, diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • small sprig rosemary
  • 3 juniper berries, lightly crushed
  • 1 shallot, peeled and diced
  • 1 tomato, roughly chopped
  • 3½ oz red wine
  • 14 oz chicken stock
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 heaped tsp grated chocolate, 70% cocoa solids
  • 1 oz unsalted butter

For the polenta

  • 7 oz polenta
  • 4½ tbs whole milk
  • 1½ oz unsalted butter
  • 1 tbs fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • olive oil, for frying
  • unsalted butter, for frying

For the blackberry jam

  • 5½ oz blackberries, washed
  • 2¼ oz super fine/caster sugar
  • 4 tbs liquid glucose

For the parsnip silk

  • 2 large parsnips, peeled and diced
  • 1 oz unsalted butter
  • 9 oz whole milk
  • 2 oz single cream
  • sea salt and freshly ground white pepper

For the chestnut purée

  • 3½ oz chestnuts, cooked and peeled
  • 3½ oz whole milk
  • 2 oz cream

For the hare

  • fillets from the hare saddles
  • groundnut oil
  • knob of unsalted butter
  • For the mushroom medley
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1oz unsalted butter
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely sliced
  • 5½ oz girolle mushrooms
  • 5½ oz chiodini mushrooms

To garnish

  • fresh thyme leaves

Preparation method

For the jus, remove the legs and shoulders from the hares. Cut the fillets from the saddles and set them aside. Remove the meat from two of the legs and set aside. The shoulders and two remaining legs can be used to make a casserole later.

Heat the oil in a large pan and gently cook the carrot, celery, herbs, shallot, and tomato until softened and golden-brown. Add the hare carcasses and trimmings, and the reserved meat from the legs, and brown the meat over a high heat. Add the wine, simmer for five minutes, then add the stock.

Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer until the volume of liquid has reduced by two-thirds. Strain through a fine sieve into a clean pan then simmer gently for 10 minutes and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Just before serving, re-heat gently then whisk in the chocolate and butter until smooth and glossy.

For the polenta, line a non-stick roasting tin, about 12” x 8”, with cling wrap. Bring 18 ounces of salted water to the boil in a large pan. Remove from the heat and add the polenta.

Whisk until smooth, then add the milk. Return to the heat and cook for 25-30 minutes, whisking regularly, until soft. You may need to add a little extra water or milk during cooking if the polenta is drying out.

Whisk in the butter and thyme, then pour into the lined tin and smooth to an even layer ½ inch deep. Transfer to the fridge and chill for 30 minutes or until set firm.

A few minutes before serving, turn the polenta out onto a chopping board and peel off the cling wrap. Trim the edges of the polenta, cut into eight triangles and fry in a little olive oil and butter for two minutes on each side until golden-brown and crisp. Drain on kitchen paper.

For the blackberry jam, put the blackberries, sugar and glucose in a small heavy-based pan and cook over a high heat. When the berries are soft and the mixture is syrupy, transfer to a food processor and blend until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve into a small bowl and cover with cling wrap until needed.

For the parsnip silk, place the parsnips, butter, milk and cream into a pan and simmer until the parsnips are soft. Drain the parsnips, reserving the cooking liquid, then blend them in a food processor until smooth. Add a little of the cooking liquid, then blend again – the purée should be thick enough to form into quenelles. Season with salt and white pepper and keep warm until serving.

For the chestnut purée, put the chestnuts, milk and cream into a pan and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the chestnuts are very soft. Drain the chestnuts, reserving the cooking liquid, then blend in a food processor until smooth. Add a little of the cooking liquid then blend again – the purée should be thick enough to pipe onto the serving plate. Season with salt and white pepper and keep warm. Transfer the purée to a piping bag fitted with a ¼ inch star-shaped nozzle just before serving.

For the hare, season the hare fillets with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat a little groundnut oil in a heavy-based frying pan until very hot then add the fillets. Cook for 2-3 minutes, turning regularly to ensure they are evenly colored.

Add the butter and, when it foams, baste the fillets for a minute or so until golden-brown. Remove the fillets from the pan and leave to rest on a warm plate for 10 minutes before carving.

For the mushroom medley, heat the olive oil and butter in a frying pan with the garlic, then gently cook the mushrooms until tender. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and keep warm.

To serve, place some blackberry jam on the plates and arrange two polenta triangles in the center of each one. Using two spoons, make quenelles of the parsnip silk and place on the plate. Cut the hare fillets on an angle into slices about ½ inch thick, discarding the end pieces. Place the hare on top of the polenta and pour the jus over the meat. Place the mushrooms around the plate, pipe stars of chestnut purée all around and garnish with thyme leaves.

Recipe from BBC with alterations for American cookery.


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