I have a close friend who had two bunnies once. One disappeared, I assume it dug an escape tunnel under her fence and the other one mysteriously disappeared. To this day she still accuses me of being the mastermind of the Great Disappearing Rabbit Trick. As much as I love my craft, actually taking a live animal and making it dinner still defeats me. Although I come from a society that slaughters for rituals and customs, I don’t know of I’d be able to actually kill a rabbit. Something about those freaky eyes that are constantly watching you!
Anyway, I digress. Whilst still a fledgling chef I was taught how to cook and clean a rabbit carcass. Rabbit meat in South Africa comes with the head of the rabbit still attached to the carcass. Apparently this is done so as to show you what you’ve got in front of you is a rodent and not a cat. Yep! The fun things we chefs have to deal with sometimes. So the first thing you do is get a large meat cleaver and chop the head off and get rid of it. There is no meat and nothing of real value to the head.
The parts you want are the hind quarters. They have the most flavour and the most meat and are awesome grilled. Rabbit meat tastes similar to chicken (yes, that old cliche) and if you blindfolded a novice to rabbit meat and asked them to taste it, they would claim it was chicken. It’s more gamey and more robust than chicken and holds its own in stews very well. Just like veal and lamb sometimes, because of society’s obsession with attaching emotion to certain creatures eating rabbit is a bit taboo amongst some circles. It’s an awesome meat and rather cheap to produce, it would be perfect in eradicating hunger if it was given the chance. It is slowly making a comeback in fine dining circles as chefs start looking to the past and finding new ways of cooking old proteins and dishes that have become less fashionable lately.
This recipe is for a stew. I love stews, maybe it’s because of my South African upbringing. If the sight of eating a rabbit leg gets to you then it would be best in a stew. Just be aware that rabbit bones are very brittle and their rib bones can be dangerous so make sure you worn anyone who is eating about the small bones!
By the way. This recipe is awesome with my ledombolo! I have the recipe for that on this blog too. Or you can serve it with herb mash like in the photo below.
2 rabbits, each portioned into 10 pieces
Olive oil (for frying)
Coarse sea salt
300g pancetta or streaky bacon
250g shiitake or oyster mushrooms
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
4 small baby onions
600ml Castle Lager beer (or any robust lager)
900ml chicken stock (nor stock cubes!)
1. Coat the rabbit pieces in the flour. Shake off any excess flour
2. Place the butter and olive oil in a thick based casserole dish on the stove on high heat.
3. Once piping hot, sear off the rabbit pieces 2 at a time, turning constantly to make sure as much of the rabbit is sealed as possible.
4. Once done, add the chopped bacon and chopped onions and carrots to the pot and stir till the bacon is crispy. You might need to add more oil to achieve this. Add salt and pepper.
5. Return the rabbit to the pot and turn and keep moving it around until it’s golden on all sides.
6. Only add the herbs and mushrooms now and fry for a further 10 minutes or until the veg is soft.
7. Stir in a spoon of more flour and pour your liquids into the pot. Stir til everything comes together. If you’ve made ledombolo then place your dumplings in balls around the meat.
8. Cover the pot with a lid and cook in the oven for 45 minutes.
9. If your stew is still slightly watery, remove the lid and return to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes.
Perfect for those cold wintery nights.