November’s ‘In the bag’ event, hosted by Scott at Real Epicurean featured game, one of the things I most look forward to cooking in the autumn. My local butcher usually has rabbit available, albeit in his freezer as I guess he doesn’t get a large demand for it, and the other day I picked up a small wild rabbit, all nicely prepared and jointed.
I do love a good stew and as wild rabbit is very lean stewing or casseroling is a good option, to help tenderise it. The length of time it will need will depend on the age and size of the rabbit but the great thing about stews is that you can just leave them to simmer away for as long as you need, topping up the liquid with water or stock if necessary. This stew really was delicious and made me wonder why I don’t cook rabbit more often, particularly as it’s so cheap. Perhaps now I will.
1 wild rabbit, jointed and oven-ready, heart, liver and kidney removed and reserved
2 rashes back bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
2 sticks of celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
800ml chicken stock
A dash of sherry
1 bay leaf
A small handful of flat leafed parsley
A few sprigs of thyme
Sea salt and black pepper
Drizzle some olive oil into a flame-proof casserole dish and heat it over a high heat. Add the rabbit pieces and brown them (you may need to do this in batches), and then remove them from the dish.
Add the bacon and sauté it until it starts to colour and then add the onion, celery and carrot and sauté them until they start to soften and take on a little colour. Next, add the chicken stock and a dash of sherry along with the herbs. Put the rabbit pieces back into the dish and season well. Bring the mixture up to the boil and then pop on a lid, turn the heat down so that it’s gently simmering and then cook it on the hob for about 1½ hours, or until the rabbit is tender. Serve straight away.
My rabbit came with the heart and kidneys still attached (they just need a little tug and they’ll easily come off) and the liver inside the cavity. Offal isn’t something that naturally appeals to me but over the years I’ve become much more open minded about trying things I haven’t before. It doesn’t always have a happy ending, such as when I tried pigs trotters and found them bland and tasteless, not being able to figure out what all the fuss is about. But most of the time I like what I try very much and so I find myself broadening my culinary taste and options
I’m quite sure the lack of appeal of offal is simply because it’s not as ‘run of the mill’ as chicken or beef so as a society – and of course I’m generalising here – we’re just not used to it. And the power of the ‘ick’ factor should not be underestimate; we are talking, after all, about the innards of an animal and in the case of rabbit one which is associated with fluffy pets, Easter and Watership Down. Now, I love all things fluffy as much as the next person – in fact, probably more so – but I also love food. I was curious about the rabbit offal and there was no way I was going to throw it away without trying it. I did hesitate for a second over the heart – I’ve never tried any heart before and I thought about its function which put me off a little – but I told myself I was being silly and, spurred on by tales of how good these things are, I pressed on. I decided that if I chop everything up together I wouldn’t know which bit I was eating anyway.
And, my goodness, am I pleased I did try it; it really was delicious. If, like me, rabbit offal is new to you and if curiosity gets the better of you, here’s how I cooked it.
Clean the reserved heart, liver and kidneys well and then dice them. Heat a knob of butter in a frying pan over a medium heat and then add the diced heart, liver and kidneys. Season them well and add a a few leaves of fresh thyme. Sauté for a minute or so, turning frequently, until cooked through. Serve on buttered toast.