Find­ing rare hare

Chef Pete Shel­don turns his skills to a rare art to pro­duce a game dish Matt Fowles has been want­ing to at­tempt for years: Hare Tartare.

Field and Game - - BUSH TO BANQUET -

Pete hails from Bris­bane and spent years cook­ing in Lon­don be­fore re­turn­ing to work at The Euro­pean restau­rant in Mel­bourne five years ago. “In Eng­land I would get par­tridge and other game on the menu; we would go up to Scot­land and get the first game meat of the sea­son and have it on the menu at the restau­rant the next day,” he said. “We did a lot of game over there but here it is dribs and drabs: some­times squab and we like to get veni­son in but we use it in pasta or as a raw dish. “We use quail once in a while but we have had a rab­bit pasta on for two years: just straight rab­bit, ri­cotta and hazel­nuts or with green olives and tagli­atelle, de­li­cious.”

An­other sig­na­ture dish is a bit of a sur­prise: duck ham, which is made by lay­er­ing the breasts with the skin on and a process of cur­ing and smok­ing. “We then roll them up nice and round so you have skin all the way round and lit­tle bits run­ning through the mid­dle like mar­ble. We carve slices and serve it with pick­les,” Pete said.

While rab­bit is a sta­ple on the menu, hare is a lit­tle more di­vi­sive. “Some peo­ple like the dark meat, some pre­fer the white meat, but for those who do like hare, it sells it­self; when we have it on it is pretty pop­u­lar.”

As a chef, Pete is un­afraid of tartare dishes. A beef tartare has been on the menu at the restau­rant for 20 years, so cre­at­ing a hare tartare is sim­ply ap­ply­ing the same tech­nique and some re­straint with the gar­nishes.

“With the hare dish, to start with it is more about mak­ing sure it was a head shot and that it has been frozen to kill any­thing that could be bad for you,” he said. “We were go­ing to use the fil­let but we have opted for the top­side, which is just as ten­der as long as you get all the sinew out. Break it into its mus­cle groups and then chop it up from there.

“It is clearly a dif­fer­ent flavoured meat to beef so you don’t want to over­power it with the rich tomato that you would use in the beef tartare; we have gone for a softer ju­niper, port, and red wine re­duc­tion.”

The key is to start with very cold meat that is just short of be­ing frozen. “At the start you want the hare as cold as pos­si­ble and then, as you are chop­ping up the meat, keep putting it back in a bowl rest­ing on some ice just to keep that low tem­per­a­ture,” Pete said.

“It is re­ally good, the same qual­ity as do­ing a veni­son loin tartare. “You want to be able to eat what you hunt and this is an­other op­tion; you don’t have to be a chef to throw some capers and shal­lots into a tartare, just dice the meat up nicely and have it cold.”

For Matt Fowles the dish was a lon­gawaited tri­umph. “I have wanted to cre­ate hare tartare for a very long time,” he said. “Apart from the ob­vi­ous al­lit­er­a­tion, hare is my favourite game meat and I think it is much un­der­rated. Any tartare is a great way to judge the skills of the chef — you have to be on point, so when Peter agreed to try the hare tartare in­stead of beef, I couldn’t wait to take the freshly shot hare to him.”

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