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.