The hare (and in recent times, the rabbit) are a staple of many Mediterranean cuisines. The dish was presented to the island’s Grandmasters of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, as well as Renaissance Inquisitors resident on the island, several of whom went on to become pope.
According to Jewish tradition, the hare is among mammals deemed not kosher, and therefore not eaten by observant Jews.
The Shia, though, have difference in opinion.
In England, a now rarely served dish is potted hare. The hare meat is cooked, then covered in at least one inch (preferably more) of butter. The butter is a preservative (excludes air); the dish can be stored for up to several months. It is served cold, often on bread or as an appetizer.
Hares and jackrabbits are leporids belonging to the genus Lepus. Hares are classified into the same family as rabbits and are of similar size, form, and diet as rabbits. They are generally herbivorous, long-eared, and fast runners, and typically live in pairs. Hare species are native to Africa, Eurasia, North America, and the Japanese archipelago.
Rabbit on the other hand has a marvellous subtle, gamey flavour, very different from richly flavoured hare. It is available throughout the year but the best sized rabbits are to be found between July and December.
Regional dishes reflect the fact that rabbit is very versatile and works well with those flavours often used in chicken dishes, such as mustard and cream (France), tomato and herbs (Italy), and chilli (South America) Today rabbit meat is not very popular in Britain, perhaps in part because of its association with food shortages during WWII.
It is appreciated much more elsewhere in Europe and appears regularly on the dinner table in Italy, France, Belgium, Spain, and Cyprus.
Malta and Crete compete for the highest rabbit consumption per head of population.
The rabbit is a member of the family Leporidae, which includes the hare. Rabbits are gregarious and nocturnal animals that feed on grasses and herbaceous plants but will also eat bark when grass is not available. Rabbits are highly efficient
at converting plant proteins into animal proteins (their conversion rate is double that of cattle, for example).
The recipe for Lievre a la Royale posted here comes from the pages of Elizabeth David’s Mediterranean Cookery and is for a relatively classical hare dish of the region.