I like a bit of rabbit but up until this weekend I hadn't cooked one. Poking my head in the butcher Saturday though I noticed wild rabbits on sale and decided I'd give it a go. Looking through the plethora of cookbooks at home HFW's Meat seemed likely to provide one and it didn't disappoint. With one of the ingredients of his rabbit stew being homemade bacon (and me having cured some just a few days before) it was as if it was meant to be.
The rabbit was whole so I set about jointing it following Hugh's instructions. A few little cuts around the leg joints, followed by a handful of chops with the cleaver through the saddle and my bunny was ready for the pot. Luckily I had a strip of belly that I'd cured up which would be perfect for the bacon content, its skin and fat adding richness to the sauce.
Rabbit Stew, serves 3 or 4
1 wild rabbit, jointed
250gr of streaky bacon/pancetta, preferably thickly cut or a lump, chopped into cm bits
2 medium carrots, 3cm chunks
2 sticks of celery, 4cm length
1 medium onion, halved then thickly sliced
Sprig of thyme or a pinch of dried thyme leaves, salt and pepper to taste
In a flameproof casserole or a big saucepan pan brown the bacon in a little oil before removing to a plate.
In the oil brown the rabbit and remove before chucking in the onion to soften.
Once the onion is soft add the rabbit and bacon back to the pan along with all the remaining ingredients - moving around till they fit snugly. Add enough water to just cover the meat.
Bring to the boil then put on a lid and stick in a 120 deg C oven for an hour and a quarter, alternatively simmer gently for the same time.
Normally I turn to stock in stew recipes but here the cider and water combined with the rabbit and bacon to give the most fantastic sauce - full of flavour whilst being thin and light. The reasonably short cooking time was not quite enough for my rabbit, it wasn't tough but it wasn't falling off the bone either (I guess the age affects the time it needs), but it was perfect for the veg - leaving the carrots and celery with just enough bite. Normally I'd go for mash with a stew but Hugh suggested some macaroni and I decided to give it a try. They were a revelation, I'm a sucker for noodle soup and the mouthfuls of al dente pasta and rich, meaty stock were a similar taste sensation. I imagine this recipe would work well for chicken portions too if rabbit isn't your thing.