Rabbits are plentiful, sustainable, cheap and healthy*.
Cooked properly, they’re delicious.
Cooked badly, they’re about as appetising as an old boot.
I’ve found that farmed rabbits can be successfully roasted with lemon, rosemary and garlic, but try the same treatment with a lean, muscular wild rabbit and the dish generally ends up in the bin.
On the other hand, cook a wild rabbit in a slow cooker with tomato, wine, garlic and onions, and you’ll end up with tender meat and a pasta sauce to end all pasta sauces.
Farmed rabbits tend to be plumper and softer, the flesh not as exercised as their wild brethren. Try to find out which sort you’re buying and keep that in mind when you’re deciding what to do with it.
This method is simplicity itself, and guarantees the most tender rabbit possible.
Lay the leg and shoulder joints from two rabbits out in a single layer in a casserole dish and salt with a couple of tablespoons of sea salt. Cover and refrigerate for a few hours, up to six should be OK.
When you’re ready to cook, quickly rinse the joints of excess salt and pat dry with a clean tea towel. Rinse out the casserole dish too, and return the rabbit to it.
Add a handful of black peppercorns, a bay leaf and a good sliver of lemon peel to the dish and cover the rabbit with melted duck or goose fat. It’s always difficult to work out how much fat will be necessary – this time, I used three 300g jars.
The meat should ideally be covered by the fat, but if it isn’t, don’t worry. Just turn the meat over a few times during the cooking process.
Cover the dish with foil and put it in a low oven, 150c, for at least an hour and a half. If you’re using wild rabbits, they’ll take much longer, maybe another half an hour or forty minutes extra. The meat is ready when it’s meltingly tender when prodded with a knife.
Using a pair of tongs, lift the cooked joints into a large, clean Kilner jar, tucking them in tightly. Pour the fat into the jar, making sure that it completely covers the meat.
The fat will set, encasing and preserving the meat. When you want to eat some, just dig out a joint and flash it in the oven for ten minutes to crisp up.
The rabbit will keep like this for weeks. It’s tender to the point of collapse, salty and bursting with flavour.
This recipe is from Tom Norrington-Davis and Trish Hilferty’s superb Game: A Cookbook.
* Rabbit meat is healthy. Duck or goose fat, with salt, is not. Beware. This is not everyday food.