Much to the disgust of my pet loving niece, I adore rabbits. Not to pet and cuddle, just to eat. Rabbits have to be the most under-rated meat around, and definitely the most under-used. In the U.K., we simply don't eat enough of them. In a time when we are crying out for alternatives to broiler chickens, we have millions of rabbits scampering all over the countryside causing untold damage. They are sustainable, we are doing farmers a favour by eating them, they are naturally 'free-range' and they are cheap, incredibly low in fat and delicious. Do you need any other reasons?
In an effort to change perceptions and make this once great rabbit eating nation a country of bunny munchers again, a simple recipe is called for. A recipe that will eradicate any thoughts that rabbit is a difficult meat to prepare or eat. For example, I know of people that won't eat rabbit as they think it has too many bones. Solution; take the meat off the bones once cooked. Or people who think they are too cute to eat. Solution; close your eyes, open your mind and taste it. If cooked properly, I am convinced you will adore it.
This recipe uses a couple of simple techniques that any amateur home cook can attempt which all makes up for a delicious and cheap meal. Chop up some vegetables and bacon, pile them all in a casserole dish with the portioned rabbit, pour in a bottle of cider and stick it in the oven. If you don't like the bones, once cooked, take the meat off and then put back into the sieved cooking sauce. Experiment with flavours and any additions. I use a little mustard, cream and prunes in mine. It works in a heavenly way. Now stop rabbiting on and jump to it!
Rabbit with Cider, Mustard and Prunes
1 rabbit, skinned and jointed (ask your butcher, and ensure that you keep the livers, heart and kidneys. The livers, mashed, will help thicken and richen the sauce and the heart and kidneys make for a delicious 'chef's treat, quicky fried in olive oil)
1 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
Salt and pepper
3 rashers of un-smoked streaky bacon, chopped
1 carrot, cubed
1 onion, cubed
1 stick of celery, cubed
1 tbsp dried or fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
500ml good dry cider
A handful of dried prunes
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
100ml double cream
The rabbit livers, mashed with a fork
1 - Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees C, GM3.
2 - In a flame-proof casserole dish, heat up the oil. Season the rabbit portions then quickly brown all over. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep aside.
3 - Add the bacon, carrots, onion and celery and cook for 5 minutes until softened and just beginning to colour. Stir in the thyme and bay leaves.
4 - Return the rabbit portions to the casserole dish then pour over the cider. Bring to the boil, cover, then place in the oven. Cook for 45-50 minutes.
5 - Remove the rabbit and keep aside. Pour the sauce through a sieve into a clean pan, pushing the vegetables through the sieve which will help thicken the sauce. Bring to the boil, then simmer whilst you remove the rabbit meat from the bones.
6 - Stir in the cream, mustard and mashed rabbit livers. Taste for seasoning. Return the rabbit meat to the sauce along with the prunes and heat through.
7 - Serve with mashed potato and seasonal greens such as sprouts or savoy cabbage.