Stew

Rabbit stew with wheat beer and tarragon

rabbit.jpg

Rabbit stew looks like dog food. No amount of herb garnish or photographic brilliance can make it look good. So instead I offer you a photo of my favourite ‘rabbit’ apron.

I don’t cook rabbit very often but when I do I always use this recipe which started out life as a Nigel Slater one. The ingredients remain roughly the same but I’ve tinkered with the cooking method, preferring a slow cook in the oven to one on the hob.

I only buy wild rabbit from my local farmer’s market but I have to admit I find cooking rabbit a real challenge.  Even decapitated the body is unmistakably a rabbit (visions of Watership Down dance in my head) and I’m too squeamish about this to joint the rabbit myself. If you’re pathetic like me I recommend asking your butcher to do this bit for you. I ask my husband and he does it willingly because this is one of his favourite meals.

This is not a difficult recipe to make but it does take a long time to cook and picking the meat off the bones at the end is a bit fiddly. Nigel, prefers to serve the meat on the bone but I like to concentrate on eating rather than worrying about choking. Some of the rabbit bones are tiny and troublesome.

If you’re not a huge fan of game (like me) then rabbit is a good one to try. It tastes rather like the dark meat from a really good free range turkey. The sauce in this recipe is amazingly rich with the tarragon adding an important note of freshness. We should probably eat more wild rabbit, they are plentiful and farmers see them as pests and shoot them to preserve their crops. Although there is no closed season for rabbit hunting a moral farmer* will not shoot while they are raising their young.

Ben likes his stew served in a giant Yorkshire pudding – unconventional, but delicious (but then again anything served in a Yorkshire pudding is usually good).

I have also used the meat as a ravioli filling with the sauce tossed through the pasta at the end before serving.

*such as Picks Organic Farm who sold me my rabbit back in March – it’s been in the freezer a while

Rabbit stew

Serves 2

  • 2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 whole rabbit, jointed into 6 portions
  • A thick slice of butter (about 1 cm thick)
  • The needles of 2 bushy springs of rosemary
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 litre of wheat beer
  • 150ml of double cream (or less if you don’t like things too creamy – I just used a dash)
  • The leaves of 4 sprigs of tarragon, roughly chopped
  • Salt and pepper

In a heavy based casserole dish melt the butter over a medium heat and cook the onions until translucent. Remove the onions.

Season the rabbit pieces well with salt and pepper and brown in the pan for around 5 minutes on each side until you have a nice deep brown colour. Add the onions back in.

Add the rosemary, thyme and wheat beer to the pan and bring to the boil.

Put a lid on and cook in an 150oC oven for 3 – 4 hours until the rabbit meat is tender and comes away from the bone easily. The amount of time this will take will depend on the age and provenance of your rabbit. Wild rabbits will generally take longer than farmed (but will taste better).

Let the stew cool and then pick the meat from the bones. This is a finicky job. Discard the bones and put the meat to one side.

Then pass the liquid through a fine sieve, mushing up at the end with a spoon to get all the best onion juices, then add to the rabbit meat. Heat through again on the hob and then add the cream, then the tarragon and season with salt and pepper.

You can prepare this in advance but refrigerate before you add the cream and tarragon. Reheat in a 160oC oven for 30 minutes, then finish with cream and tarragon on the hob.

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A hearty soup for a dull January evening – Caldo Verde

caldo verde

Happy 2014.

As usual the Sunday supplements and glossy magazines are full of diet tips for the New Year but I’m a firm believer in NOT dieting in January. The cold weather, dark nights and lack of parties just makes it far too cruel – better to wait until spring I say (if ever). I am however trying to eat a little bit more healthily than over the Christmas period, which considering the rubbish I ate isn’t particularly hard. We also spent a few days after New Year in Scarborough eating lots of wonderfully unhealthy seaside fare (fish and chips, ice cream sundaes, bags of fresh-from-the-oil donuts) so some hearty, wholesome food for January is definitely in order.

We’ve been making Caldo Verde – a Portuguese soup – for quite a few years now but rather infrequently. Every time I eat it I bang on about how nice it is considering its humble ingredients and ask why I don’t make it more often. It’s super easy and you’d think that using water instead of stock would make it rather bland but it’s actually very, very tasty. If you think soup on its own isn’t a proper meal then you could add a large chunk of bread on the side, but even my bread monster husband doesn’t see this as necessary. This dish is also very economical which is good if you spent a bit too much on Christmas.

Caldo Verde

Serves 2 as a main course

  • 80g of chorizo
  • 4 medium potatoes (approximately 400g peeled weight), diced into 1cm pieces
  • 160g kale (unprepared weight)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • ½ an onion
  • 1 litre of cold water
  • ½ teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

Heat half a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan and sauté the onion, garlic and chorizo for a couple of minutes, until they begin to colour.

Add the water and potatoes and bring to the boil. Simmer until the potatoes are soft (between 5 and 10 minutes).

While the potatoes are cooking prepare the kale. Wash well and remove the coarse white stem running up the centre of the leaf. Then slice the leaves as thinly as possible. I find the easiest way to do this is to take several leaves at once, place them on top of each other and roll to form a rough cigar shape, then chop with a very sharp, large knife.

Once the potatoes are cooked, remove the pan from the hob and using a potato masher mash the potatoes into the soup so that they break up. I like to leave some bits fairly big.

Season with about ½ teaspoon of salt and about 10 twists of the pepper mill (or to your preferred taste), then add the kale and return to the hob.

Continue to simmer until the kale has softened, this will only take a couple of minutes. Check the seasoning and then ladle into large bowls.

I like to drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil mixed with ½ teaspoon of smoked paprika over the top of each serving for an extra punch but if you’re being healthy you could leave this part out.