Celebrating game in all shapes and forms, this squirrel recipe comes from The Jugged Hare gastropub in London. Lean but full of flavour, squirrel meat suits being cooked slowly, as here in a rich red wine braise. Served with a horseradish mash and sautéed sprout tops, it would make a delicious Sunday lunch.
To prepare the squirrels, cut the rib bones out with sharp scissors, then cut each squirrel in half along the backbone
Add the pieces to a deep tray or dish and pour over the red wine to cover. Mix in a little of the thyme and rosemary, making sure all pieces of the squirrel meat are covered. Cover with clingfilm and leave to marinate in the fridge for a few hours
After this time, remove the squirrel and pat dry with kitchen towel. Lightly dust with flour and add to a large casserole pan with a glug of vegetable oil
Seal the meat quickly on all sides until lightly browned, then set aside. Add the chopped vegetables, garlic and remaining thyme and rosemary to the pan and allow to colour slightly
Add the squirrel back to the pan and pour in the red wine from the marinade. Allow this to simmer and reduce by about two-thirds volume, then add the chicken stock and bring to a boil
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 90°C/gas mark ¼
Skim off any residue on the surface, then cover the pan with a tight fitting lid or a sheet of foil. Cook in the preheated oven for 4–6 hours, checking every now and again to ensure it is not drying out
When cooked through, the meat should fall off the bone. Allow to cool, then take the squirrel pieces out of the braising liquid and place on a baking tray and cover with foil
Strain the braising liquid through a fine sieve into a clean saucepan and place back on the heat. Allow to reduce down until it reaches a thick sauce consistency, then stir in the hazelnuts. Keep warm until ready to serve
Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in a large pan of salted water until soft, then drain and return to the pan. Mash with the cream, butter and horseradish until smooth (you may need to add a little more cream if too thick)
Sauté the sprout tops in a large pan with a knob of butter until slightly wilted. Season well with salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4
To serve, reheat the squirrel pieces on the tray in the oven for 5 minutes, or until hot all the way through. Serve with the horseradish mash and buttered greens, with the hazelnut sauce poured over
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