During a week spent discovering the back-roads and byways of Alsace in easternmost France, I found myself musing about the apparent absence of dead animals on the road. (Back at home in North Yorkshire, this is, sadly, an all-too-common sight.)
It was through an unfortunate driving incident with a large hare
that I came to the realisation that there might be a good reason for this; and when I had – with some relief – donated my unintended victim to a passing mother in the charming village of Kintzheim, I started to wonder what use she might have for it in the family kitchen that weekend.
So here I offer up – by way of remembrance and contrition for the ex-hare – an authentic Alsatian recipe for Civet de Lièvre
(courtesy of Les Soeurs Scotto’s France – The Beautiful Cookbook
), in case you ever find yourself in a similar situation, with no spare Sainsbury’s carrier bag to hand.
Ingredients (serves 6)
• 750ml red wine
• 3 tbsp cognac
• 1 large onion, sliced
• 1 medium carrot, peeled & sliced
• 2 cloves garlic, peeled & quartered
• 1 sprig thyme
• 1 bay leaf
• 1 sprig rosemary
• 1 tsp coarsely ground pepper
• 1 hare (about 2kg), cut into serving pieces (reserve liver)
• 250g streaky bacon
• 3 tbsp vegetable oil
• 18 small pickling onions, peeled
• 1 tbsp plain flour
• Salt & pepper
• 250g button mushrooms
For the noodles
• 350g plain flour
• 3 eggs
• 3 tbsp cold water
• Salt & pepper
• 4 pinches grated nutmeg
• 50g butter
• Pour the wine & cognac into a bowl. Add the herbs and vegetables, plus the pieces of hare. Turn to coat, then marinade in the fridge for 12hrs, turning now and then.
• Remove the hare from the marinade, then strain the latter, discarding the herbs, etc. Cut the bacon into thin strips, removing the rind.
• Heat the oil in a casserole dish and lightly brown the hare on all sides for around 10mins. Add the bacon and pickling onions and stir over a medium heat for 5mins. Sprinkle with flour, and stir for an extra minute.
• Pour the marinade into the casserole dish and bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 2hrs, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper.
• Trim and wash the mushrooms, cut into quarters and add to the pot once the 2hrs is up. Stir and cook for another 30mins.
• While the hare is cooking, prepare the egg noodles: sift the flour into a bowl, then beat the eggs in a separate bowl with the water, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Pour this mixture into the flour and mix with a wooden spoon to produce a smooth dough which falls away from the side of the bowl. Roll out the dough onto a wooden board in several separate batches.
• Boil a saucepan of salted water. Cut off small strips of the dough and drop them into the boiling water. As soon as they resurface, remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a dish of cold water. Repeat this process until the dough is cooked.
• Melt the butter in a large frying pan and add the noodles. Turn them over in the hot butter for 5mins, keeping them moving.
• Remove the pieces of hare with a slotted spoon and arrange on a shallow dish. Press the raw hare liver through a sieve into a bowl and mix in 60ml of the sauce. Return the mixture to the pot and stir for 30 secs over low heat, without allowing the liver to cook. Pour this sauce over the pieces of hare and serve immediately with the noodles.