Good evening good evening good evening.
Tonight’s dinner could be described as a little extravagant for a weeknight meal, but sod it – I’m celebrating. Today marked my last ever shift at Morrisons and consequently the last time I will ever be required to preside over the self-scan checkouts, which easily has to be the most hateful job in the universe. Thus I decided that I had a very good reason to cook something unusual, slightly labour-intensive and a little bit cheffy. I was really pleased with how this turned out, and although it tipped the scales slightly in favour of being restaurant food (as far as my cooking ever does) it was really good value to make.
If you can get your butcher to bone your rabbit for you, I highly recommend it as I made something of a hash of it. Also, this would work equally well with chicken. You can read about my reasons for eating rabbit here.
I realise this isn’t technically a ballotine, as I didn’t stuff it with anything. However, I decided that it was a better name than “Bunny in Bacon” which was the alternative.
Boned rabbit pieces
Salt and Pepper
4 rashers rindless streaky bacon per person
- Marinade the rabbit in buttermilk seasoned with salt and pepper. Do this overnight if possible, or for a couple of hours if not.
- Grease some squares of tin foil (one per ballotine). I used some of the fat I rendered from using A Man’s dad’s bacon to cook carbonara the other day. Lay the bacon rashers, slightly overlapping one another, on the greased foil. Stretch the bacon slightly with your fingers to thin it out, but be careful not to break it.
- Lay the rabbit pieces on top of the bacon. If you are anything like me, and end up with lots of little pieces of rabbit rather than simply boned joints, that’s OK because the bacon will keep everything together. Wrap the bacon around the rabbit, and wrap the foil tightly around the bacon, securing the ends.
- Bring a pan of water to the boil and turn down to a simmer. Cook the parcels for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, quarter the fennel and parsnips (Peeling if necessary) and shred the cabbage.
- Add the fennel and parsnips to the water for 10 minutes. Place a baking sheet in the oven and preheat as high as it will go.
- Remove the veg from the water, place on the hot tray and put it back in the oven to bake. Unwrap the rabbit and keep warm on a plate. Turn the oven down to a medium-hot temperature.
- After the veg has been cooking for around 10 minutes, add the rabbit to the baking tray. Cook the cabbage and serve everything once the bacon is crispy and the fennel and parsnips have started to brown.
- Serve with a light gravy (preferably home made, but we had Bisto 🙂 )
One of the butcher’s shops in my town has recently been advertising wild rabbits, at £4.50 per kilo. I have eaten rabbit before but hadn’t cooked it, so decided to give it a go. Now I know that Brits often get squeamish about eating rabbits, primarily because they’re cute and fluffy and people keep them as pets. I, on the other hand, have no such qualms. Rabbit meat is high in protein and iron, but low in calories and fat. Rabbits breed prolifically, and are considered to be a major pest by farmers. Eating wild rabbit is therefore beneficial to the farming community.
In terms of taste, rabbit is (clichéd as this may sound) very similar to chicken. Because it is very lean, it benefits from being paired with a rich sauce. I made mine from home-made chicken stock which was enriched with bacon from one of A Man’s dad’s pigs – there was about an inch of fat under the rind.
And in case you think I’m heartless and cruel, you may like to know that I kept pet rabbits from the ages of 5 to 20. I loved them to bits and (unless my parents have been keeping secrets from me for the past 15 or so years) didn’t eat any of them. I don’t see this as being at odds with a willingness to chow down on their wild cousins. As far as I’m concerned, it’s important not to detach yourself from the source of your food and not to be sentimental about certain types of meat, while happily gorging yourself on others.
Has anyone else got any good rabbit recipes for me? I put half of it (along with the liver) in the freezer.
Wild rabbit, jointed (my butcher jointed mine for me)
1 or 2 rashers of fatty bacon
Fresh thyme (plus I used some thyme jelly)
Garlic mashed potato, to serve
- Chop the bacon into chunks and fry on a low heat to render the fat out. Remove the pieces of bacon from the pan and reserve. Brown the rabbit in the fat for a couple of minutes and remove from the pan.
- Dice the onion and fry in the bacon fat. Add the thyme, dice the parsnips and mushrooms and fry off until the veg is starting to soften.
- Add the bacon and rabbit back into the pan and pour over the stock. Cover and cook on a very low heat for about an hour.
- Mix a spoonful of cornflour with cold water. Remove the rabbit from the pan and keep warm. Add the cornflour to the stock and stir continuously until the sauce has thickened. Serve the rabbit immediately on top of a mountain of mashed potato and covered with the sauce.
It’s A Man and my 6 year-anniversary today. At least, the anniversary of when we started seeing one another. The one we celebrate ‘properly’ is in July, and marks both when we met and got engaged (and, after next year, our wedding day). We had no plans and have had a lazy day reading, punctuated by spaghetti on toast and a somewhat more adventurous venison stew for dinner.
We bought the venison when it was on offer a few weeks ago and stuck it in the freezer. The recipe is loosely based on one in the Ballymaloe Cookery Course book, except for being heavily based around what we had in the cupboards. According to Ms Allen, as venison is a lean meat it benefits from being ‘larded and barded’; the former referring to the meat being cooked with the fat of another cut and the latter to the meat being wrapped around with some fatty meat (often bacon). As I had been intending to cook this dish, I reserved the fat and bones leftover from Friday’s Oxtail stew as there was still plenty of cooking left in them (the bones intended to add to the flavour of the stock). However, unsmoked bacon or lardons are what is recommended in the book. Mine also includes chestnuts, which were recommended by my mum. Any cooked chestnuts would be fine for this – roast your own if you like. Mine were ready-roasted and frozen, defrosted before use.
They might look like baby onions, but I promise they were chestnuts! In hindsight, perhaps bowls would have been a better idea for this one!
300g diced venison
1 small glass red wine
(optional) 2 – 3 tablespoons whisky (I used some raspberry whisky I’ve had on the go, but plain would do)
Fresh thyme stalks
1 medium onion, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Bacon/Lardons/other fatty meat
2 cloves garlic, sliced
100g cooked chestnuts
- Mix the wine, whisky, herbs, onions and oil in a bowl and add the venison. Marinade for several hours, preferably at least overnight.
- Fry the lardons in a medium-hot pan, until the fat begins to run and the meat to brown. Place the meat in a slow-cooker bowl or oven-proof dish.
- Remove the venison from the marinade and coat in seasoned flour. Fry in the bacon fat until it has started to brown. Add to the slow-cooker pot.
- Remove the onions from the marinade and fry with the carrots and garlic in the bacon fat until the onion has started to soften. Add to the slow cooker pot.
- Deglaze the pan with the remaining marinade. Pour into the slow-cooker pot. Warm enough beef stock to cover the venison and add to the pot. Stir everything well and cook on ‘low’ for around 4 hours (or in the oven on a low heat).
- Add the chestnuts to the pot near the end of cooking to heat through thoroughly. Serve the stew with swede and onion mash and steamed vegetables (we had asparagus again). The gravy is quite thin, but incredibly flavoursome – mix it with the mash to mop it all up.