Recipe: rabbit stew (including surgery!)

On Friday, wandering through town after my haircut, I dropped into a butcher’s to buy a few sausages, or a bit of pork, or something. I came out with a rabbit.

I am not entirely sure how this happened. Still, never say die. What can you do with a rabbit? We thought for a bit, and decided on stewing. After consulting with the usual oracles (thanks, Ewan), this is what we came up with:

Ingredients:

  • One rabbit, skinned and cleaned and rendered visibly less fluffy
  • Several slices of bacon
  • A handful of carrots, an onion, some garlic
  • A bottle of cider
  • Honey, some dried mixed herbs (or fresh thyme & bay, if you have it), salt, pepper
  • A large casserole dish, with lid, and an oven at ~120 degrees

First, start the bacon frying; when it’s lightly done, decant into casserole, and start on the onion and garlic ditto.

Meanwhile, prepare the rabbit. If it comes pre-jointed this is easy; if not, it’s remarkably good fun. (I thought so, anyway.) Get the forelegs off at the shoulder – a cut around them with a sharp knife and then a quick twist does it – and lay them to one side; do much the same for the hindlegs. Set your four limbs aside, and contemplate the residue.

You have two choices here; either you can carve it up and take off the meat, or you can just hack it up into lumps and stew those. (Or so the internet assures me) I preferred carving, because it seemed more fun and less likely to involve chewing on ribs.

This is somewhat hard to explain without pictures, but you’ll have a torso with the ribs and a meaty back at one end, and a spine tailing off at the other. The hips shouldn’t have much meat around it – it’ll have come off with the thighs – but if there is any, chop it off (without taking the bone) and put it aside. Now, cut off the “flaps” which are hanging off below the ribs – these covered the abdomen, and are boneless. Put them with the joints, but be careful not to get any of the rib ends, otherwise you’ll be picking them out of your teeth later.

You may want to now chop off the spine below the ribs, to make the next bit easier to handle; toss it aside, or keep it for stock, your call. Slice closely along the side of the spine above the ribcage, pointing downwards; then, slice closely along the top of the ribcage where it curves into the spine to meet this cut. You can basically now lift out these lovely fleshy bits; chop them into lumps and put them with the joints. Lastly, get the meat off the sides of the ribs; cut carefully with a small sharp knife and it should come off.

I think that’s the lot of it, but I’m writing from memory; I may take notes next time. Basically, carve off anything that comes off, watch out for the ribs, and keep poking around to see if you’ve missed anything.

End result : one pile of rabbit meat (small), one skeleton fit for stock or feeding to any carnivorous animals you have around the house (small), one sense of achievement (medium). I don’t know if you can actually feed rabbit bones to small carnivorous animals, so you might need to check that bit first. Or bury it in the garden, dig it up in a year, and present it to a small child who wants to be a vet.

Anyway, when we went into surgery the bacon, onions and garlic were lightly sizzling. Decant them into the casserole, leaving the fat in the pan, and then fry your rabbit with enthusiasm. Get it nice and golden, and in it goes too. Chop the carrots into lumps, and in they go; add a couple of spoonfuls of honey, the herbs, salt, pepper, stir it all around. Top off with enough cider to cover it all; if you’ve not enough, then a little warm water to suit. (If you’ve too much, have a drink. Thirsty work.)

Pop it all in the oven at about 120 degrees for about two hours. (A little warmer or a little longer won’t hurt at all, of course). Serve with rice or bread or potatoes – something solid and absorbent. Serves two to four depending on whether you remembered to eat lunch.

Next experiment: do it with wine. Rabbit in red wine does sound delightful…

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