So as Poppy mentioned in her previous blog, my mate Chef ‘Dead eyed Dick’ shot me a hare. He’s a country boy at heart, not sure if he’s a Kentish man or a Man of Kent but I do know he could live off the land and you wouldn’t starve to death if you were stranded on the Isle of Sheppey with him.
Chef did the decent thing for me and removed Hartley’s innards and outers and brought it into work prepped for the operating table. Stripped naked and headless Chef watched over me while I jointed his prey (just removing ambiguity here – Chef was fully clothed)
I removed the rear legs, front legs and took the loin off the bone. In any other circumstances I would have retained the carcass for a stock but space in the freezer is an issue (more for Poppy than me!) so reluctantly the bare bones were discarded.
I had a plan, the rear legs were to be slow cooked, meat removed and served in small pots with a potato topping. The front legs, confit in duck fat and Asian spices, wrapped in Chinese pancakes and fried, finally the loin simply pan fried – I say simply, one of my many rewards for reaching a milestone birthday last year was a Sous Vide (I know, I’ve got the BEST friends!!). I also have a vac pack machine (I know, I’ve got the BEST daughters!!) So the loins were to be Sous Vide then fried off in butter for colour.
So – methinks one element at time……
I took the rear legs and placed them in a marinade of red wine, thyme, fresh bay leaves, garlic, half a dozen juniper berries and a few black peppercorns. They were then placed in the fridge for 24 hrs.
Fry in a pan with a little oil and butter some carrots, celery, onion and fennel then place these in the slow cooker. I then poured the marinade into the same pan to cook through and reduce slightly. Add that to the slow cooker. I dusted the rear legs in some flour seasoned with salt, pepper and english mustard powder then fried them, again in the same pan, in a little oil until browned then added them to the vegetables. Add a heaped teaspoon of tomato puree to the pan to cook out for a minute then deglaze the pan with some fresh red wine. When reduced I then added about half a litre of fresh chicken stock then poured this into the slow cooker and set to low. I left this on for 10 hours.
Strain off then reduce the liquor right down, skimming any surface oil or scum. You want a thick, concentrated, reduction. Finely dice carrot, celery, shallot, a little fennel and sweat down in some clarified butter. Pick the meat from the rear legs and chop into small pieces, add to the vegetables, pour over the reduction, holding some back for the final dressing of the plate and set aside.
Very finely slice, preferably with a mandolin, small potatoes. Place them on a non stick oven proof surface overlapping, forming a circle slightly larger than the small pot you intend to serve the casserole in. Brush with butter, season and bake until cooked through and golden. Place on top of the casserole and set aside until ready to plate up.
The pancake element……
If you don’t have a Sous Vide you can confit in a pan on top of the stove or in the oven but it has to be long, low and slow.
To my duck fat I added, a piece of cinnamon, one star anise, some schezuan peppercorns, a dried chilli and a couple of cloves. You can jiggle this around to suit your own tastes of course.
Season the front legs and place in the duck fat. Vac pack in a bag and I sous vide at 80 degrees for 8 hrs. Allow to cool and pick the meat from the bones. Finely shred and keep the pieces small. I then tossed the meat in a small mixture of dark soya sauce and mushroom sauce, just to coat, I didn’t want to overpower the meat or the flavour it had picked up through the confit.
With a pastry cutter I reduced the size of the pancakes bought from our fabulous Asian supermarket Longdan Express at the Elephant & Castle. Place a small amount of the meat in the centre (don’t be tempted to overload them – they wont seal and they will burst) wet the edges, fold over two opposite sides just to the meat then roll from one of the other sides to seal. Gently press down and keep the edges underneath. Cover in cling film to prevent drying out until ready to fry just prior to plating up.
Finally the loin element……
Lay out some cling film and place the loin on it. Roll up in the cling film and then take hold of both the ends of the film and roll along the work surface to form a sausage. The more you roll the tighter and plumper it gets. Tie off the ends and place in the fridge for a couple of hours to set.
Slice off the very ends and remove the film. Season the loin with salt and freshly ground pepper. I then took some fat I’d trimmed from some thinly sliced pancetta and laid it along the loin. Vac pack and sous vide at 58 degrees for 12 minutes. Set aside. Without a sous vide you could just go to the next stage but obviously you would have to pan fry for a little longer and rest well. When your ready to plate up heat a small frying pan and place in the loin having removed the pancetta fat. I put the fat in the frying pan though for a little more flavour, add butter and sear for colour continually basting. Remove from the pan and keep warm.
I decided that the veg of the day would be Cavolo Nero, salt crusted baked beetroot and oven roasted shallots. The cabbage is one of my favourite vegetables, this particular batch picked from the garden of my employer who has the kind of vegetable plot I lust after. It is very well tended and the produce is a reflection of the TLC it receives.
The cabbage leaves were the small ones from the top of the plant so they were just blanched in boiling salted water then plunged into ice water to stop them cooking on and to keep its vibrant colour. Just prior to serving I tossed them in some melted butter and a splash of the cabbage water just to warm them through.
For the beets I washed them, dried them and I snipped off the tops and the roots. I made a mix of salt, egg whites and a heaped teaspoon of hot horseradish. Placed a lump of the mix in one hand and pressed the beet into it.
Added more of the mixture to completely encase it by forming it into a snowball and placed it onto a baking sheet. Gas mark 5 for about 50 mins depending on the size of beets. Mine were billiard ball size and were perfect. Crack open the salty oven and reveal the purple jewels – allow to cool slightly and peel of the skin. I then cut into quarters and set aside ready to glaze in some clarified butter to serve.
The shallots were the torpedo type which I left in their skins and popped in the oven on a tray alongside the beets. When ready to plate up simply peel exposing the soft, sweet flesh.
Warm through the casserole pots, fry the pancakes in a little oil until golden brown, heat the sauce that was held back and finish with a few nobs of butter. Slice the loins on the diagonal, sunshine on a plate – enjoy the music!
See photos for serving suggestions.