Rabbit, hare, coney – a question dear Islanders………. is rabbit more of a meal than a pet? Is Baroness Brownie Von Marshmallow, a daughters bunny, twitching her nose in her hutch, just a friend to cuddle? Or, a rather delicious main course to be enjoyed with an excellent bottle of red? Jury might be divided here good folks.
Only famous for hopping and eating carrots, rabbits have been consumed in Europe for centuries. Every April the Easter Bunny is trotted out with it’s loveable basket of eggs nestled in straw. Too much cuteness, yellow and the inevitable easter egg hunt all over the house and garden. Frankly, I am slightly alarmed that no one has ever, ever, questioned the glaring fact that, actually rabbits don’t lay bloody eggs? Am I the only one?
But, saying that, legend has it that the Easter Bunny actually originates in Germany with the first mention of our chocolate bearing furry friends dating back to 1682. A German professor, Georg Franck von Franckenau (what a name!!) observed that ¨ in Alsace and neighbouring regions those eggs are called rabbit eggs because of the myth that is told to make the simple minded and children that the Easter Rabbit was laying and hiding them in the grass of gardens so the children search for them more eagerly for the delectation of the adults ¨.
Around this time of the year you might think think of rabbits as cuddly wuddly floppsy puffy pots of cuteness that hide Easter Eggs. But, in the Middle Ages, good people, if you take a moment to have a sticky beak at some rabbit Medieval art, then you’d know they didn’t give you chocolate, they just bloody murdered you, or at least brandished swords and threatened to do so. Interestingly, in those days it was wildly believed that the hare (or rabbit) was a hermaphrodite. This is was intriguing as the idea that a hare could reproduce without loss of virginity got the priests pretty damn excited that lead to an association with the Virgin Mary. Eggs, like rabbits are fertility symbols. That’s of course because rabbits are just always at it. (sweet memories for all you old buggers ) None of this pairing for life, these little guys are such prolific breeders they possess a rather alarming ability known as superfetation. Superfetation? No idea what this means….I can barely pronounce the word sober, much less have any idea of what it means. Upon
looking it up I found it basically means that females can conceive a second litter of offspring while still pregnant with the first. Good thing for Brexit that rabbits are not on benefits in the UK, eh?
Rabbit meat has a load of things going for it, flavoursome, and lean which you don’t have to be a bunny boiler to embrace, maybe just a pet lover. I am not suggesting that Alan, your son’s bunny should be strangled, skinned and roasted for the sake of healthy living – well, yes, well the I am, but not in front of the kids. But, there is no disputing that rabbit is almost cholesterol free with more meat on it than a chicken if you look at the ratio of meat to bone.
One valuable hint I feel I must share with you…….. when cooking rabbit…… go low and slow. Sear the surface quickly over high heat but simmer gently for at least half an hour in a liquid or stock. The meat has such a low fat that it has a tendency to dry out and become stringy. Your crew will undoubtably enjoy the following recipe and I would hope that your guests enjoy the slightly more posh one.
Rabbit with Creme Fraiche and Tarragon
1 rabbit, cut into chunks
200g porcini mushrooms, roughly sliced
1 small eggplant, roughly sliced
1 small zucchini, roughly sliced
2 large spring onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Half bunch fresh thyme sprigs
2 – 3 large sprigs of tarragon
250ml creme fraiche
A generous dash of vermouth
Salt and pepper
Season your rabbit well with salt and pepper and set aside. Place a large sauce pan over high heat and allow a few minutes to heat up.
Add the butter along with a splash of oil. When butter has melted, add the rabbit and brown nicely on both sides – do in batches to avoid over crowding.
Remove from pan and set aside. You should have some lovely rabbity pan juices left in pan.
Now lower heat to medium and add a bit more oil and butter to pan. Chuck in the mushrooms and thyme. Cook until liquid has evaporated and mushrooms are nicely browned.. Pour in a generous splash of vermouth and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen any flavours stuck to the bottom.
Dump in the white parts of the spring onions along with the garlic, cook for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly, then add the sour cream and stir to combine.
Place the meat on top of the creamy mixture and pour over any accumulated juices, lower heat to medium – low.
Cover with lid and simmer for 30 minutes.
When the 30 minutes are over, remove rabbit bits and keep warm. Chuck in the zucchini and eggplant and raise the heat to medium high to bring the sauce to a vigorous boil. Keep cooking until the sauce is reduced by at least half, stirring every now and again so it doesn’t burn. While the sauce reduces, pick the leaves off the tarragon stems and chop them. Once the sauce has reduced and thickened, stir in most of the tarragon leaving a small amount for garnish.
Be good to your crew, you know they deserve it……..serve with organic brown rice and maybe some steamed spinach. They will love you for it.
Roasted Saddle of Rabbit stuffed with Black Pudding and Tarragon
4 slices of jamon serrano
2 saddles of rabbit, boned, plus the kidneys
salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 tablespoon olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and diced
4 celery sticks, trimmed and diced
8 tablespoons dry white wine
2 tablespoons butter
4 spring onions, finely chopped
400g fresh spinach, stalks removed
2 big splashes of stock
8 tablespoons cream
**Saddle of rabbit is not an equestrian piece of equipment, it is the cut of meat that runs from the end of the rib cage to the hind legs, essentially
comprising the two loins that sit either side of the spine and the skin and
muscles surrounding them.
200g black pudding
60ml double cream
Prepare the stuffing for the rabbit by removing the skin from the black
pudding from its skin and put it in a food processor with the cream. Blend until soft and spoonable.
Overlap the slices of jamon on your work surface so that they are slightly
wider than the rabbit fillet. Lay the fillet on top and season well. Spread the black pudding mixture over the fillet. Roll the ham to encase the rabbit and stuffing.
Then heat the oil in the pan and add the rolled fillet and fry for five minutes or until brown and crisp.
Toss the carrot and celery in and fry for 2 or 3 minutes, then add the kidneys and fry for one minute on both sides.
Remove the pan from the heat. Lay the rabbit on a board to rest and spoon the carrot and celery into a bowl.
Then, prepare the spinach puree by melting the butter in a small pan. Add the spring onions and spinach until gently saute until spinach is wilted.
Transfer the spinach and spring onion to a food processor and add a splash of stock and the cream; blend until smooth. If your puree is too thick add a touch more stock.
Pop your pan back on the heat and throw in the white wine and stir to collect the cooking juices from the rabbit. Tip the carrot and celery back in the pan and stir in the butter. Slice the kidneys in half and add to the pan.
Slice your bunny saddles into 12 pieces and place three rounds on each
warmed plate with a spoon of the spinach puree. Scatter over the carrot,
celery and kidneys and finish with a drizzle of the pan juices and wait for the applause.
Celebrity Rabbits have held our hearts over the years, Peter Rabbit, Harvey, Br’er Rabbit, Roger Rabbit to name a few. But, Bugs Bunny, that little cotton tailed character certainly was long in wit, guile and probably the first and only cross dressing rabbit. His long and unrequited love affair with arch enemy Elmer Fudd really gives the phrase ¨Whats Up Doc ¨ new meaning and inspiration to millions world wide.
Well, dear Islanders, I will leave you with a sobering thought, Watership Down – you’ve read the book, seen the film, now let’s eat the cast.
I’m loving it………!!!!!!!!!!!