Hot cross bunny

Many moons ago, a suitor of mine once arrived on the doorstep bearing a charmingly vacuum-packed rabbit. It was an unexpected and unconventional gift, but it certainly tasted better than a bunch of roses. I wasn’t sure what to do with it but he produced a few notes written on the back of a restaurant menu. Using them as a basis, this is how we cooked it.

Braised rabbit with tomatoes and olives
Rest assured that you don’t have to sacrifice the family pet or go hunting for this Easter dinner. Farmed rabbits are available from good butchers, farmers markets and some supermarkets – and they are usually sold already ‘dressed’ (decapitated, skinned and cleaned) . If you flinch at the idea of eating one of the Flopsy Bunnies, substitute free-range organic chicken pieces for the rabbit.

1 rabbit (around 1.5kg), cut into pieces (ask the butcher to do this for you)
1/2-3/4 cup plain flour
salt and pepper
3-4 tbsp olive oil
2 red onions, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 ribs of celery, tough strings removed and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
150ml red wine
500g vine-ripened tomatoes (about five medium-sized ones)
Herbs: 1/2 a small bunch of fresh parsley (use the other half of the bunch for garnishing), several sprigs of thyme, a sprig of rosemary, a bay leaf
1 cup good quality black olives

Begin by putting the flour, a good pinch of salt and several grinds of black pepper in a plastic bag with the rabbit pieces. Close the top of the bag and shake well, ensuring the rabbit pieces are all covered with a nice dusting of flour. Remove from the bag and set aside (throw the unused flour away).

Blanch and peel the tomatoes – put them in a bowl, cover with boiling water and let sit for about 30-40 seconds. Lift out and nick the skins – they will lift off easily. Chop into chunks and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy pan and add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic. Saute over medium heat until starting to soften, then add the rabbit pieces, browning them on both sides. Pour in the wine and let it bubble away for a minute or two, then add the tomatoes and herbs. Cover and simmer very gently for 45 minutes to one hour, until the rabbit is cooked through and tender.

Stir in the olives and season with salt and pepper to taste. Scatter over some freshly chopped parsley before serving with steamed greens and hunks of chewy sourdough bread or crusty baguette. Feeds four.



  1. April 3, 2012 / 7:00 pm

    I do really like rabbit but rarely eat it although our local landlady makes a wonderful rabbit pie… I always love the idea of suitors bringing food rather than dull old flowers… lovely x

  2. April 3, 2012 / 8:57 pm

    I like rabbit a lot and this looks really good. Sadly, nobody ever turned up at my door with a rabbit (I've led such a sheltered life), although one lady did turn up with a pheasant once. I dread to think how she got hold of it.

  3. April 4, 2012 / 6:47 am

    Now that is an imaginative suitor! I'd be quite impressed. My hubby bought me a box of export grade tamarillos as his first suitor gift, I was working in a restaurant at the time and the chefs were well impressed

  4. April 6, 2012 / 9:37 pm

    I LOVE rabbit and when in France we eat it a lot, your recipe looks fabulous and I may try that as a change next time I cook rabbit!

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