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Wild boar ragoût *

*Vegetarian version below.

Wild boar is very prevalent here in the Corbières, they come down from the mountains in the height of summer in search of food and they are very partial to the maturing grapes! That being so they are considered a pest and are hunted as a way of controlling their numbers and protecting the vines. Which in turn means that the meat tends to partner very well with the red wines of this region!

Cingale!

The usual way of cooking a ‘sanglier’ is to make a civet ( game meat cooked in red wine and onions), which is a type of stew. This is my version, it is called a ragoût because of the way in which it is prepared; the meat is cut into pieces and cooked in vegetables with a sauce. It involves long and slow cooking, the meat, which can be tough due to it being a wild animal, is rendered super tender and melts in the mouth. The beauty of this is that after the prep there is very little to actually do, it tends to cook itself with the occasional prod! You can also adapt the vegetables to the season, so now as we are in the beginning of summer; I use tomatoes, peppers, courgettes, aubergines and pleurotes. However in the winter months I would use leeks, carrots, celery, celeriac or swede and girolles.

Admittedly wild boar is not necessarily available commercially so if you can’t get it I would recommend replacing the boar with lamb or mutton rather than pork, as they have a richer flavour and work equally well for long, slow cooking.

Ingredients:

1 wild boar leg ( if you have a choice go for an animal that is not too old)

1 bottle of white wine ( whilst you dont need to use your best wine always make sure that it is drinkable as any faults will intensify in cooking and ruin your dish!)

2 large onions

6 large garlic cloves

3 handfuls of garrigue herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage and bay leaves)

a generous quantity of salt and pepper

For the ragoût:

1 large onion, diced

2 large garlic cloves, diced

1 carrot, m peeled and diced

1 large aubergine, diced

1 red pepper, deseed and diced

2 courgettes, diced

1kg plum tomatoes peeled, seeded and diced ( you can substitute with 2 x 400g tin of plum tomatoes but you may need to add some sugar to sweeten as they tend to be tart)

250g oyster mushrooms (pleurotes) wiped clean and roughly chopped

1 small glass of red wine ( use the wine you will be drinking with the dish)

1 handful of chopped herbs – rosemary, thyme and sage plus 2 bay leaves

seasoning to taste

Method:

  1. Start with the wild boar, remove as much of the sinew as possible and any stray hairs.
  2. Find the largest pan you can so that the leg will lie flat, if it has a lid that is ideal if not you can use tin foil.
  3. Peel and roughly cut the onions, flatten the garlic with the back of your kitchen knife, you don’t need to remove the skins, throw them into the pan with the onions and herbs. Leek, carrot and fennel tops can also be added, just scrub them clean and throw them into the pan as they all add flavour.
  4. Rinse and pat dry the boar and lay on top of the veggies and herbs, pour on the bottle of wine ( all of it, although it won’t matter if you have a sneaky glass!) generously season with salt and pepper.
  5. Cover and put into the oven at a very low temperature, 100ºC.
  6. I usually do this last thing at night before going to bed and then when I get up (around 7am) it is perfectly cooked! If you are doing it in the daytime you can turn the meat every couple of hours. It will depend on the size of the leg, but I count between 6 and 8 hours total cooking time.
  7. Leave to cool and then drain the juice off, keep this as you will need it for the stock, and throw away the veggies and herbs.
  8. Take the meat off of the bone, it should just fall off. Chop into rough cubes and set aside.
  9. In a large casserole pan with a lid, heat a good slug of olive oil and sweat the onions in a pinch of salt to soften without colouring.
  10. Add the garlic and stir over a medium heat, add the chopped veggies except the tomatoes and mushrooms, stir and cook for 10 minutes until softened.
  11. Add the boar meat and combine with the chopped herbs and seasoning.
  12. Now stir in the tomatoes and glass of wine.
  13. Pour on the meat stock. You may not need to add it all at this point it depends on how much you have left. You want the dish to be quite liquid as you will be cooking it on a slow heat for several hours. So do this by eye and add more stock as you go. Note that you don’t want to add liquid in the form of wine at a towards the serving stage as it will give a raw wine taste to the dish.
  14. Add the bay leaves and check the seasoning, cover and cook on a slow heat stirring and checking for seasoning and consistency for a good two hours. In winter I put this on the Godin (an old fashioned French wood burning stove), you can cook on top or inside the oven as you wish.
  15. After several hours the vegetables will have softened and the meat and juices combined with the herbs to take on a rich and aromatic flavour. Add the mushrooms, check the seasoning, add more chopped herbs if necessary and cook for a final half hour.
  16. Serve with garlic white bean purée, mashed potatoes, polenta, noodles or just a hunk of bread.

This Friday, the 19th of June, I will be serving this to Honor for our 18h tasting and we will be enjoying this with Domaine Jones’ Fitou. A delicious robust red with plenty of garrigue herbs, ripe fruits and structure. If you wish to get a bottle you can go to her website and she is doing two speicial offers for our tastings.

Now if you are vegetarian or vegan you might not appreciate my sense of humour with Louis’ toy ‘cingale’! Apologies! However you may well enjoy a vegetarian version, it is very simple to adapt and makes for a much quicker dish as you omit the long cooking of the meat and replace with Lauragais or Puy lentils, the little green lentils that hold their shape and have a delicious earthy, nutty flavour. Make the ragoût as above (omitting the meat and replace the meat stock with your favourite vegetable stock, home made is best). Cook the vegetable for 40 minutes then add the lentils, you will need to add more stock as the lentils will absorb the liquid more than the meat. After a further 30 minutes add the mushrooms and finish as above.

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