Portion/Yield:Makes about 40 canapé-size pastries
I think autumn leading into winter is a fantastic time of the year and it’s fast becoming my favourite time of year. The game season is in full swing and although I am not usually keen on hare as I find it a bit too strong for my liking, this recipe is delicious and is definitely a wonderful way for me to enjoy hare.
I’m pretty pleased with this recipe. I really like Argentinian empanada pastry and as we are heading towards canapé and finger food season, I thought it’s a great pastry to showcase the game season’s best.
I have used the hare haunches for this recipe, and by cooking them in duck fat this keeps the meat moist and succulent (roasting the meat is too harsh and will dry it out too much). The pumpkin then adds a welcome natural sweetness to the hare.
Ingredients & Method
For the confit hare
- 2 hare haunches, bones in (about 480g total weight)
- coarse sea salt, for sprinkling
- 4 large sprigs of fresh thyme
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 4 bay leaves
- 10 black peppercorns
- 5 white peppercorns
- 1kg duck or goose fat
For the hare and pumpkin filling
- 100g golden sultanas (use standard sultanas, if you prefer)
- 100ml hot chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon duck or goose fat
- 2 banana shallots, finely diced
- 2 sticks celery (strings removed), coarsely grated
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon ground mace
- 40g tomato purée
- 350g cooked flaked hare meat (from the confit hare above)
- 150g (prepared weight) firm orange-flesh pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and deseeded, flesh coarsely grated
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mixed winter savory and sage
- sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
For the empanada pastry
- 150g unsalted butter
- 500g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
- a pinch of sea salt
- 1 large egg
- 2 large egg yolks
- 100g pine nuts
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh winter savory
- freshly grated nutmeg
First prepare the confit hare. Place the hare haunches in a deep baking tin and heavily season with the coarse sea salt. Add half of the thyme, the garlic and 2 of the bay leaves. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for 3 hours.
Preheat the oven to 150°C/Gas Mark 2. Remove the hare haunches from the baking tin, dust off the salt, place the hare in a deep, ovenproof casserole, then add the remaining thyme and bay leaves and the mixed peppercorns. Heat the fat in a separate pan until just melted, then pour the warm fat over the hare haunches to submerge them. Place a cartouche (a circle of greaseproof paper) directly onto the fat, cover the casserole with a lid and cook in the oven for 3 hours. Test to see if the hare is cooked by wiggling the bone; if it comes loose, then the hare is cooked. Remove from the oven, remove the hare from the fat and drain on kitchen paper, then flake the meat from the bones, discarding the bones. Set aside. Pass the fat through a sieve into a container, then leave to cool, cover and refrigerate for another use (see Cook’s Notes).
Next prepare the hare and pumpkin filling. Put the sultanas in a heatproof bowl, then pour over the hot chicken stock and set aside for 10 minutes to rehydrate. Meanwhile, melt the duck or goose fat in a medium, non-stick frying pan, add the shallots, celery, garlic, nutmeg, mace and some salt and pepper and sweat over a medium heat for 6–8 minutes or until softened but not coloured. Increase the heat, add the tomato purée and cook for a further 2 minutes, stirring to prevent the purée from catching. Add the soaked sultanas and chicken stock and cook rapidly until the stock has reduced by half and thickened to a coating consistency. Remove from the heat and transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the flaked hare meat, grated pumpkin and chopped herbs, mix well, then adjust the seasoning if needed. Cool, then refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Meanwhile, make the pastry. Melt the butter in a pan, then set it aside to cool for 10 minutes. Place the flour, salt and cooled melted butter in a mixing bowl, use a fork to mix well, then make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and add the whole egg, using the fork to bring the pastry together. If the pastry is a bit dry, add a tablespoon of cold water at a time (do this gradually as you may not need that much), mixing to make a dough. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently knead until it all comes together and you have a smooth dough (but don’t over-knead it). Wrap the pastry dough in cling film and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6 and line 2 baking trays with non-stick baking paper. Roll out the pastry dough on a lightly floured work surface to about 2mm thickness, then cut it into 5cm diameter discs. Brush the pastry discs with egg yolk, then place a teaspoonful of the filling mixture in the centre of each disc. To shape each pastry, lift up the sides of the pastry disc and pinch them together to form a boat shape, leaving the top of the filling exposed (see photo). Brush each pastry with some egg yolk and then place it on a lined baking tray, leaving a 3cm gap between each one.
Once all the pastries are assembled, bake them in the oven for 12–15 minutes or until the pastry is cooked, crisp and golden brown. Remove from the oven and let the pastries cool on the baking trays for a couple of minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack and leave to cool for about 15 minutes before serving.
Meanwhile, for the garnish, scatter the pine nuts on a roasting tray and toast them in the oven for 2–4 minutes or until golden brown all over. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly, then roughly chop the nuts into smaller pieces.
To serve, arrange the warm pastries on a serving platter, scatter over the toasted chopped pine nuts, chopped winter savory, a couple of pinches of sumac and a few gratings of fresh nutmeg and serve.
These pastries are great served as canapés, but they are also good served with a lightly dressed salad as a starter or light lunch (serve 3 pastries per portion for a starter, or serve 5 per portion for a light lunch).
The leftover fat from the confit hare will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Use it to make delicious roast potatoes or to confit duck legs using the same method as above. See also my recipe for Confit Duck Legs with Potato, Samphire and Broad Bean Salad and Warm Bacon Dressing