Saturday, 5 February 2011

Are you a Bunny Boiler? Rabbit and Garlic

Wow. Of all the food stuffs I have cooked, rabbit is the one that has sparked the biggest response. No one battered an eye-lid at the veal, but as soon as I posted that I had a bun(ny) in the oven on Facebook, there was uproar! Presumably it's because many of us have, or have had, pet rabbits, and yes, eating a pet rabbit is an uneasy thought. 

However I was fed rabbit as a kid. My fondest memory of eating rabbit was on a family holiday. My Uncle and Granddad had gone out into the fields to shoot rabbits.  Once back at the house my Granddad skinned them and we barbecued them for tea. Well I hate to say it, but they were delicious!

Since then I’ve only ever eaten rabbit when eating out and I’ve never even thought about cooking it at home…. Until I saw them for sale at the market. Knowing that it was readily available, I consulted my copy of Fergus Henderson’s Nose to Tail Eating and the Rabbit and Garlic recipe took my fancy. In this recipe Fergus takes inspiration from a dish he ate in Barcelona. He admits that he hasn’t quite mastered the Spanish dish, but considers his version a good alternative. Having loved food in Barcelona myself, a Spanish inspired dish sounded good to me!

Now this recipe calls for the use of tame rabbits, which I assume means bred rather than wild. I asked the butcher whether his rabbits were tame or wild and got the answer ‘Well they went wild when they shot ‘em’. Hmmm. Funny guy, but he didn’t really answer my question! I went for one anyway and picked the largest one available which set me back about £6.50. 

Once home, I took the rabbit out of its bag to check out what I had. I had 6 portions; two front leg and two back leg and thigh portions and two portions from the middle. I was surprised how clean and glistening the meat was. It was very light in colour and looked a bit like chicken with very little fat. I think mine was tame after all. There wasn’t any shot or bruising. 

Here we go….

Olive oil
1 tame rabbit (have your butcher chop it into portions for you)
Salt and pepper
150g streaky smoked bacon, with the rind attached
12 shallots, peeled, but kept whole
30-40 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
150mls dry sherry
300mls white wine
500mls chicken stock
1 bay leaf
Bundle of fresh thyme and parsley tied together

The above serves 4/5

I heated the oven to about 180C and then heated some olive oil in a large lidded casserole dish. I seasoned the rabbit and then browned it in the dish (in two batches). Once happy with the colouring, I removed the rabbit and set it aside. 

Next in was the bacon. Now Fergus says to chop the bacon into ‘spirited chunks’. What ‘spirited chunks’ are, I had and have no idea. Google was no help either. So I just chopped it into random sizes chunks, hoping that at least a third of them would be ‘spirited’. 

So with the ‘spirited’ bacon in the dish, I added the shallots and cooked them for about 10 minutes, stirring to ensure that nothing was starting to burn. I then returned the rabbit to the dish and added the garlic, sherry, wine, stock and the thyme and parsley bundle. I was also meant to add the bay leaf at this stage but forgot. Oooops!  

I then checked the seasoning, brought it to the boil, put the lid on and stuck it in the oven. One and a half hours later and the meat was almost falling off the bone. Time to serve.

I served mine with mashed potato, red cabbage and broccoli. I also had some crusty bread on the table for mopping up the juices and I think that this has been my most successful dish so far! The rabbit was tender and juicy. The flavour wasn’t so gamey (which again suggests that it was tame rather than wild) and it took on the salty flavours of the bacon and the garlic nicely. The sauce was beautiful; make sure there is plenty of bread for mopping it up if you make this dish. It was garlicky and salty, but not overly so. There is a LOT of garlic in this dish, but as the cloves are unpeeled, the flavour wasn’t overpowering and sucking the flesh from the cloves was a delight! 

Everyone praised the dish and had seconds. One diner, known for restraining herself a little more than the rest of us when eating, went for thirds!

If you’re a little squeamish about cooking up Bugs Bunny, maybe you could use skinned chicken portions. I’d use free range though; as you’ll want it as lean as possible.

This is the second Fergus Henderson recipe I have tried, the lambs’ heart was the first, and I’m impressed so far. Some say that his recipes are a bit difficult to follow for the novice cook. It’s true that you do have to use a bit of common sense, but that’s ok. Some cook books spell everything out to the point that they become patronising. 

So, have you had rabbit?  Is it a step too far for you? Or is it just another piece of game to enjoy?


  1. I love rabbit, might have to try this one. Rabbit stew slow cooked for a day is one of the nicest dishes ever.

  2. I am definitely going to try more rabbit dishes!

  3. I tried rabbit once but it had so many little bones that I got put off it!

  4. Love your blog! Such inspiration! I shall be visiting again. PS I am fairly local to you. x

  5. Komal - There certainly are a few small bones - especially the rib bones. They were quite soft though so not that much of a hassle. If they do annoy, you could try this with chicken. Honestly the sauce is divine!!

    Diane - thanks! I'm glad you're enjoying it. So, you're in Sheffield then?

  6. I'm going to give this a whirl as I have rabbit fear but it's really just gamey chicken, if I think of it that way I'll be fine.

    I did try squirel. That was lovely and we too got some interesting comments from friends. Very much like nutty duck, with a strong game flavour and very lean meat.

    The only problem was the tiny bones, and it needs long slow cooking but lovely. We got ours from a farm shop in Bakewell. I'm thinking of getting them in again and giving it another bash.

  7. Do give it a go Dianna and let us know how you get on. It's fab! Squirel... is that one of Fergus Henderson's recipes?