It is the time of year where farmers and weekend country/city folk alike head to the forest in search of the Cinghiale (wild boar) the feral ancestor of the domestic pig. Bearing the winter cold, all over the Tuscan country the cracking sound of shot guns pierce the silence of the forest in the hope of claiming the prize.
A strong beast as the wild boar its meat is equally intense and flavoursome. Cooked and cured in many different ways its with one that is most popular and that is the ragù. A slow cooked Wild Boar Ragu, where the meat is powerful in flavour, soft, delicate, gamey and rustic is a great way to give this beast the credit for its sacrifice and a well known Tuscan favourite.
Found all over Italy, the Cinghiale has almost taken on a cult status in Tuscany a symbol of its strengths and power, its riches and glory but with the down to earth connection with the land it walks.
WILD BOAR RAGÙ
— 2kg wild boar (use the shoulder)
— 2 onions finely chopped
— 3 carrots finely chopped
— 3 sticks of celery finely chopped
— A bouquet garni – made up of sage, rosemary, bay leaf and thyme
— 6 large cloves of garlic
— 2 tbsp juniper berries
— 2 large tins of peeled tomatoes liquidised
— 1/2 bottle of passata of tomato
— 1 chilli
— 1l chicken stock
— 1 bottle of Chianti red wine
— Extra virgin olive oil
— Salt and pepper
HERBED POLENTA CAKE AND SAUTÉED MUSHROOMS
— 400g polenta (instant is easier for this)
— 1 sprig of thyme
— 1 small bunch of parsley chopped
— Salt and pepper
— 1l of chicken stock
— 200ml of milk
— 50g of Parmigiano Reggiano
— 200g field mushrooms
- It is important first to marinate your wild boar over night before cooking. Trim and cut your boar into medium sized cubes and leave to marinate, covered in red wine, carrot, celery and onion chunks, some juniper and herbs like bay and thyme.
Remove the meat, but keep the marinade. In a heavy pot, olive oil and cook your soffritto (carrots, celery, onion) until soft, then add your wild boar until lightly golden in colour.
- At this stage you can add your marinade liquid, bring to a boil, add your tomato sauce, stock and season to taste, cover and cook slowly until the liquid has reduced and the meat is soft, tender and falls apart.
Cook your polenta over medium heat adding your stock and milk and whisk continuously for 30 min. If the polenta is too thick you can add a little water. Then add your finely chopped herbs and Parmigiano. It is this simple.
- Remove from the head and place in a deep baking tray and spread out evenly, let it cool in the fridge for 2hrs and the polenta will set firm. Remove and cut your polenta into large cake size pieces, then drizzle with olive oil and bake in the oven at 180c for 20min until the out side is crunchy but still soft in the centre.
- Clean and wash your mushrooms to remove any dirt, cut into medium sized chunks so you can feel the mushroom, remember they will loose a lot of moisture during the cooking process. Add olive oil to a pan, and on medium to high heat sauté your mushrooms until you see a light golden crust, season with salt and pepper.
Serve this wonderful dish with the Wild Boar Ragu over the Herbed Polenta with the Mushrooms on the side and serve.