The year marches on, and yes it will soon be March! When we think about good food, we normally think about wine. But chefs are notorious for their penchant for the beverage made from hops and barley.
A good beer can give much pleasure to a thirsty cook at the end of his shift. But this is not about drinking the heady nectar - this is about cooking with the stuff.
The lowland countries of Europe have long used beer in recipes. Here, we have cooked meat puddings with ale, while in Ireland pies may include porter.
Perhaps the most famous dish is the classic Carbonnade de Boeuf, a Flemish creation. This was one of the first dishes I learned at the beginning of my cookery career - a hearty meal made by braising steak with onions and beer.
Beer is produced all over the globe, although many believe the first was produced in Egypt. I have not come across any recipes from that region, where the beverage is used in food preparation.
But this is the month when, if you drive around in our open countryside, you can witness hares engaged in their spring ritual, when they appear to be boxing. It could be though, that they have sneaked into the village pub, and imbibed the amber liquid! I supposed they could then be called 'Pickled Hare'!
In any event, the ritual has given rise to the expression 'As mad as a March hare'.
This is my version of an old English recipe. One hare should be enough for about six people (get the butcher to joint it for you).
Hare cooked in beer
* 1 hare
**1 large onion
**2 sticks of celery
* 2 cloves of garlic
**3 crushed juniper berries
**1 sprig each of thyme and rosemary
**2 pints strong beer (eg Guiness)
**1 tbsp veg oil
**1 tbsp melted butter
**2 tbsp flour
Method 1) Season the joints and dust with the flour. Heat the oil and butter, and the fry the pieces of hare until a good golden colour is achieved.
2) Put the hare in an oven-proof dish, then fry the vegetables and garlic in the same pan.
3) Deglaze the pan with the beer, and bring to the boil, ensuring that all the sediment is combined.
4) Add the herbs and juniper berries and pour over the hare. Cover with a lid and cook in a moderate oven for 2-3 hours, until tender.
5) Place meat in a serving dish, taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning if necessary, then strain over the meat. Serve with dumplings or mash.