Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.
It’s been far too long since I made the time to write up a cooking entry. Today I was given the perfect excuse…
As I was walking out of the butcher, having just picked up some beef skirt, I off-handedly asked how the rabbit supply was going. “We got some in this morning, he had to clear a field.” The butcher, Allinghams in Hitchin, gets his rabbit from a guy who only snares and ferrets (no shot to worry about) but it is pretty early in the season for rabbit, so I wasn’t expecting anything. Now here was a conundrum, I have meat already but there’s supremely fresh rabbit on offer too. I gave in, and grabbed myself two bunnies. A little pricier than I’m used to, at £4 each, but they were excellent specimens and the butcher had already jointed them so less work for me.
I had no idea what I was going to do with my bunnies, no plan. Given they’re so fresh I absolutely had to serve one up for dinner tonight, and not as a slow cooked dish either. However, I’m really not certain about “fast cooking” rabbit so I did a little research. I came across a few shallow-fry recipes, preceded by various simmering times (from 5 minutes in Clarissa’s excellent The Game Cookbook through to an insane 90 minutes from some online log of a Jamie Oliver TV show.) With this vague sort of inspiration I went on my merry way.
The three recipe parts below can be executed in parallel, which is what I did. The separation is unnatural really, but hopefully clearer. This recipe provides two rather large serves and would feed three reasonably (you’re going to fight over who doesn’t get a rear leg though!)
- 2 crusty white bread rolls
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 1 sprig sage
- 2 sprigs lemon thyme
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 3 tsp ground pepper
I wanted breadcrumbs to get a nice crispy finish on the bits of bunny, but buying breadcrumbs is both silly and a rip-off. Alas, we rarely eat bread so didn’t have any around. However, rather that buying crappy crumbs for £1 I bought two crusty white Waitrose rolls for 32p each. (Ingredients complete with “flour conditioning agent”, WTF?)
When I got home I cut the rolls in half and placed them cut-side-up on racks in the oven. The oven I turned to 125C and, once the temperature was up there, I let the rolls crisp up for about 20 minutes (they should dry out, but don’t let them brown.) Then I turned off the oven but left the buns in there for a further half hour.
I tore up the crispy rolls and threw them in the food processor, and blasted them until quite fine (see photo.) The herbs were finely chopped before being put in with the crumbs along with the salt and pepper, this lot was then given 30 seconds on full-spin to mix it all up.
The crumbs were transferred to a bowl and put in a 125C oven for 30 minutes. I gave the crumbs a bit of a toss twice, at 10 minute intervals.
Simmer & Sauce
- 1 jointed rabbit
- 2 cups good chicken stock (even better: rabbit stock)
- 1 cup good, rich, red wine
- 1 cup water
- 8 pepper corns
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 2 tbsp double cream
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
Carefully check over the rabbit and make sure any spurious hair is removed. This can be a fiddly job, but is worth doing. Discard any flappy offcuts and bony parts, such as the belly flaps and the front of the ribcage (see photo of discarded bunny bits.) These offcuts can go into the freezer for stock making. (You could potentially use them, including the forelegs, to make the stock for the sauce in advance.)
It is very important that you use good stock and good wine here, the flavour of the final sauce will really depend on these two ingredients. If you’re using bought stock then buy a liquid one, preferably one from the refrigerator. Also, beware of salty stocks. If the stock is too salty try reducing to a third or quarter rather than fifth, otherwise the sauce will be awful. Taste the sauce occasionally while it is reducing to guard against this.
Dump everything except 2 tbsp of the cream and the rabbit into a 24cm (small) stockpot, mix well and bring to a boil. Put in the larger parts of the rabbit (rear legs and pieces of saddle) and reduce heat so that liquid is barely simmering. After 7 minutes add the forelegs, simmer for a further 6 minutes, then remove from the heat. (The forelegs are small and need less cooking, you could actually leave them out and put them aside with the other parts for making stock. They’re fun to eat though.)
Fish out the poached rabbit pieces and place in a colander to drain and cool, set aside. (Note: 15 minutes seems fine, the rabbit was cooked through but still very juicy and tender. A digital thermometer indicated an internal temperature of around 75C.)
Put the simmering juice back onto the stove on a high heat and reduce until a fifth of the original volume (200ml.) Strain through a sieve into a jug, stir in 2 tbsp of double cream and set aside.
Warm buttery lentil salad
- Lentil salad (and oil)
- 100g puy lentils
- 40g unsalted butter
- 2 small beetroot
- 1 medium carrot
- 1 small leek
Pre-soak the lentils for 2 hours, discard the water, and rinse briefly.
Bring a litre of water to the boil and add a large pinch of salt before adding the lentils. Tune the heat until the lentils are simmering, and simmer for 15 minutes.
Drain in a sieve and rinse with cold water.
Tail the leek and cut lengthways in quarters from where it turns green down to the base. Now working up from the base slice the leek at about 2mm intervals. Put the green part aside to use some other day (hopefully tomorrow!)
Add 20g of butter to a medium frying pan and melt before adding the chopped leek. Fry the leek until lightly browned before adding the lentils and stirring through until well coated with glistening butteriness. Turn off the heat.
Peel and grate the carrot and beetroots and put on the lentils along with the remaining butter. This can now be set aside until later.
Fry, fry, fry!
- Plenty of sunflower oil (or similar)
- A large egg, beaten
- Some plain white flour with a little salt and pepper
- Breadcrumbs from above
The above recipe parts can be completed in advance, you could even put the components into the fridge for a day I guess. However I’d worry that the rabbit would end up cold in the middle and be unpleasant, you could warm it a little (microwave? ick) if it is out of the fridge I guess. In my case, I finished the above steps about an hour in advance and just left the components on the bench or stove, covered over.
To prepare, put a couple of serving bowls or plates into a warm oven (bring the oven to 100C then turn it off.)
Put about a 4cm depth of oil into a small saucepan, at least big enough to hold two bits of rabbit at a time. The depth of the oil should be just enough to cover the thickest bit of bunny. Get this over the heat and bring to around 180C (a crumb dropped in should sizzle and slowly brown, a good digital kitchen thermometer is worth investing in.)
Meanwhile, the sauce can go into a small pan on the stove to be gently warmed. This may need an occasional whisking to work in any skin than forms.
Thoroughly coat the pieces of rabbit with plain flour, seasoned with a little salt and pepper. The entire surface should have a dusting of flour, then all excess flour should be thoroughly tapped off. Now coat, thoroughly again, with the egg. Immediately coat your eggy rabbit piece with crumbs, pressing firmly to get good coverage before tapping off loose crumbs. Place (very carefully) into the hot oil. I do this with my fingers, as tongs or chopsticks would dislodge crumbs – really be very careful though.
I fried two bits of rabbit at a time, letting them sizzle away for 90 seconds before turning over with a pair of tongs (the coating is nice and firm now so the tongs do no damage) and giving them another 90 seconds. The crumbs should be a rich golden-brown all over (see photo below.).
Place the fried bunny parts onto some paper towels before dealing with the next pair. You can put the fried bits into the warm oven so they don’t loose too much heat.
When all the bunny parts are fried get the heat going under the lentils and warm through. The lentil mixture should be evenly heated and just barely steaming.
Divide the warmed lentil mix between the warm bowls and place the bunny bits on top. Serve with the sauce alongside, a nice chunk of sourdough bread, and a glass of the wine used to make the sauce.
There you have it, I call it YFB. The colonel and his horrible chicken can just bugger right off.
This recipe worked brilliantly, especially for a first-timer. It’s all down to the rabbit though, young and fresh – certainly never frozen! These were killed last night, and on the table this evening. Rabbit is often somewhat dry, but in this case the flesh was wonderfully juicy and succulent, just like a deep-fried chicken thigh but much tastier.
If I were to change anything it’d be the amount of lentil mix, overall this meal was a little too filling. YFB would work well served with just some bread and a green salad.
I’ve been telling family we’d put up photos of our place for 2 months now and still haven’t! Well, here’s a start. Four different angles on the kitchen: