Hare, on the nose

Fine scents and quality foods don’t necessarily marry. Think of the aroma of some of your favourite cheeses. Hardly alluring are they?

Game is the same. The best game looks like something left over from a Rambo movie, all blood and guts, and smells like an untended underarm, wiped clean with a pair of old socks. Whenever you are offered fair dinkum game in a restaurant it will just about always come with a caveat emptor. I have even seen a menu with this addendum to a hare dish: ‘Beware: the only similarity between hares and rabbits is that they both hop. Don’t believe they taste the same. Please ask our staff for further advice.’

You wouldn’t find the same warning on a menu anywhere in Europe. Across the continent, the game

season is anticipated with much relish. I will never forget the game stall at the Florence market. There were pheasants by the dozen, their necks still dripping from the slash of a butcher’s knife; a deer hanging by its hooves from the roof; hare everywhere. Across the table lay a wild boar, disbelief still etched across its almost twitching snout.

Behind the counter stood the proprietor, a cigarette rammed between his teeth. He, too, had a gamey look about him. His apron was spattered with very old blood, and the boar, even in its rather advanced state ofrigor mortis, had a better set of teeth. Back home, hare is the only real thing in the game department. The only hare which gets to market comes from wizened old men who take to the bush and shoot the pests, I know this for sure as, one time in the restaurant days, a customer sent back a note with a very cleanly wiped plate, which, a few minutes earlier, had featured a fillet of hare. At the side of the plate were three little black balls, which I took, at first glance, to be peppercorns. I read the note:

‘My compliments to the chef. The hare was delicious, and clearly gathered under authentic conditions, I suggest you give these pellets a good clean, and perhaps your hunter can use them again.’

For those of you who have not tasted hare, it might be wise to ask your game seller for a hare that has not long been shot. If they have been hanging around in their skins for a few weeks, as is the way for hare freaks, they get richer and richer, both on the nose and on the palate.

First triers might not be able to manage a hare which has spent a fortnight in heaven. But if you start your run at game with a freshly killed specimen, you should manage adequately, understand the strength of flavour, and go on to bolder tries. The longer the hare has been hung, the more tender it becomes. And when you cook it, don’t fiddle with it. It needs a little something on the side to assist through the richness, like mashed potatoes or baby carrots, but certainly not a rich sauce, or a marinade.

1 fillet of hare, sinew and sheath removed — One fillet should serve 2 people, it is so rich. Trim away the thin end pieces, which run into the neck, so your fillet is of equal thickness through its length. Keep the smaller pieces for another quick meal.

½ cup good quality port


black pepper


Set the oven to its maximum temperature a few minutes before you start cooking.


Heat a little oil in a pan which can go in the oven. Place the hare fillet in the oil, moving it around so it does not stick. Brown all over and leave to cook on top of the stove for about a minute.


Place in the oven and cook for about 5-6 minutes longer, depending on the thickness of the fillet. Test by pressing the flesh with your forefinger. The hare should be served rare to ensure its tenderness and maximum flavour.


Set the hare aside on a warm, covered plate and scrape any sediment from the pan with the port. Reduce heavily over high heat, adding a little salt and some black pepper. Some people like to add a little sweet jelly to this sort of sauce, During the reduction, add any juice which may have run from the hare on to the plate.


Slice the hare thinly and serve with a little of the port reduction.