A little while back, on an eerily warm weekend mid winter, my friend took me rabbit hunting. I wrote about the experience for The Lifted Brow food issue, which is launched this Friday at The Workers Club in Fitzroy. If you are in Melbourne you should get on down there and listen to some music, purchase a copy, and generally get merry.
This photograph is of a rabbit I have cooked since, purchased from the Victoria Market. (Always ask for a wild rabbit and inquire of its origins.) They sectioned it for me and I took it home in a neat little bag. It was a very different experience to hunting and killing my own food. And it was almost as delicious, but not quite. The frying scent that filled the kitchen as I cooked the first rabbit was mouthwatering. It really smelt like the seaside heath where it was shot: fresh and green and salty. It smelt like nothing I have ever cooked before.
This my interpretation of the recipe my friend gave me. It’s their Nonna’s recipe, but the vegetables should be substituted with whatever is in season and herbs that are prolific from the garden. Make sure the rabbit is covered with stock, as rabbit is a lean meat and can dry out. The zucchini should reduce into a winey, herby sauce, the turnip and fennel should be soft and infused with juices and the rabbit pieces should be tender.
Rabbit with Seasonal Vegetables
1 fresh caught, free-range rabbit, sectioned into seven pieces
1 onion, diced finely
1 leek, sliced finely
1 cup of white wine
1 fennel, cut into hunks
2 turnips, cut into bite sized pieces
2 zucchinis, diced finely
1 litre good quality chicken stock
4 bay leaves
3 sprigs of thyme
2 sprigs of sage
Arborio rice, to serve
(If shooting your own rabbit: skin and gut the rabbit. Soak in brine in the fridge for 48 hours. Drain the rabbit, pat dry and then section. Break the saddle into three pieces with your hands. Slice into the flesh around the belly to the bone. Joint the four legs so there is seven pieces of rabbit.)
Pre-heat the oven to 150C.
Brown the rabbit on high heat in a large, heavy pan that can go into the oven. Remove the pieces from the pan and brown onions and leeks until translucent, deglaze the pan with the white wine. Put the pieces of rabbit back in the pot, jigsaw them together with hunks of fennel, turnip and finely cut zucchini. I submerge this in chicken stock, then cover with bay leaves and sprigs of thyme and sage. The pot goes into a low oven for two and a half hours. Serve with Arborio rice or a loaf of crusty bread.