What a wonderful summer we were blessed with. I have been out in the vegetable patch tending my bountiful harvest, which has enjoyed the sunshine as much as I but everything seems to have come at once, so is a glut now. What the slugs haven’t devoured or I’m not giving away ends up on the compost heap.
The summer weather has suited the rabbits too. Bolstered by lush, green grass and my tender plants, they seem to be doing very well indeed. I watch them from the house, bold as brass hopping about and multiplying right in front of my eyes. However, when I see those little bunnies frolicking around, I can’t help but lick my lips.
I’ve long been a fan of rabbit, especially in a pie with shortcrust pastry, served with fresh greens and creamy mashed potato with grain mustard. But killing and preparing rabbits is quite a skill not even tried by the majority I reckon, so they’re still the preserve of the hunter-gatherer, or bush craft fanatic and possibly not ‘Truly Scrumptious’ readers. Thankfully, supermarkets are starting to sell it (albeit beautifully prepared and packed in plastic), as do farm shops and Buttlings of course. I long to see rows of furry rabbits hanging in Buttlings shop window as I swear the bunnies on my land are trespassing from his! We continue to debate this pesky state of affairs.
To get the best from rabbit you must understand its make-up – it can be a dry meat as there isn’t much fat on a rabbit, so the fail-safe way to cook it is slowly and carefully – braised or casseroled seems best. The younger the bunny the better, as with all animals, as they are more tender. I guess the same must go for squirrel, and despite having seen it for sale locally, I haven’t had the courage to buy any. My head tells me that squirrels are closer to rats than rabbits, so will leave well alone. And eating hare is just plain wrong.
So slowly does it. Create a relaxed mood in your kitchen which will be reflected in your cooking, and as you go about your day, it will take care of itself in the oven – leave the kitchen door open and let the comforting scents waft about the house tempting those hungry down to the kitchen table for an autumnal supper to savour.
Now, if you have impressionable children in the house, please change the name of my recipe, even substitute the rabbit for chicken. When what you are eating for supper has an association with Beatrix Potter you may have trouble on your hands. Call it chicken either way, they will never know!
Anyone passing along the bridge at Ludwell – feel free to call out to the ever increasing bunnies boldly eating my grass, that I have plans for them!
Pot-roast Peter with Noilly Pratt
Approx. £10.50 when all ingredients purchased in Ludwell (costs are for chicken)
Rabbit is a treat, more sophisticated than chicken although you can substitute chicken very easily for this recipe. Leave out the Noilly Pratt if you like but maybe add some sliced fennel bulb to develop an aniseedy background to the flavour.
2 rabbits, jointed into 8 pieces, liver sliced if available (alternatively use a large jointed chicken, skin off and preferably include the liver – optional)
2 tbsp Dijon mustard (grain will be good too)
50g unsmoked bacon, diced or lardons
100g unsalted butter, diced and clarified (melted and solids removed)
450g trimmed leeks cut into 1cm slices
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
100ml Noilly Pratt or pastis if you can get it
½ lemon – juiced
100ml chicken stock
chopped dill to serve (fresh only please - use fennel leaves/fronds if you can’t get dill)
Preheat oven to 150°C / gas mark 2 (AGA simmering oven)
1. Brush the mustard over the rabbit joints.
2. Heat a large cast-iron casserole over a medium-high heat, add all but a tablespoon of the clarified butter and colour the rabbit in batches, transferring the joints to a plate as they are ready
3. Add the bacon lardons to the pan and fry until lightly coloured
4. Add the leeks to the pan with the herbs and continue to cook for about 7 minutes until glossy and lightly coloured, stirring occasionally
5. Return the rabbit to the pan, pour over the Noilly Pratt, lemon juice and stock. Lightly season (bearing in mind the bacon will be quite salty)
6. Give everything a good stir, cover and cook for 2 hours in the oven, turning the rabbit once.
7. Transfer the cooked rabbit to a dish and simmer the juices vigorously for a few minutes to concentrate the flavour.
8. Heat the reserved butter and fry the liver if using
9. Return the rabbit to the sauce and serve scattered with the liver and dill
Serve with mash or creamed celeriac, chard, greens or beans. Keep it simple. If you prefer a creamy sauce (which would be ideal if using this recipe for a pie filling) add 100ml of double cream at the end of the reduction (stage 7).
As always it’s ….truly, truly scrumptious
These musings and recipes are gleaned from The Donhead Digest with the permission of AIF, their author.