I had never cooked rabbit before. In fact, I had never really thought about these little creatures as meat, though I had tasted it once or twice a few years ago.
But when we were asked by a friend if we wanted a few rabbits it was a definite yes. So the hunting men laid their traps and the next morning there were many rabbits to take home. We were given six. Daniel helped skin and gut the rabbits, and Luca got to skin his first rabbit. He was pretty excited. I didn't watch, but I wouldn't mind to next time around.
It's a skill that some people out here still have. That ability to hunt for our food. Which is a pretty useful skill to have when you think about it. There must be some reassurance in the knowledge of come what may, you could provide for yourself and your family if you had to. These skills weren't taught to most of us for the past generation or two. But I guess it's never too late to learn.
I believe some butchers stock rabbit, but it would be worth asking if it is wild or farmed. To my (limited) knowledge, wild is preferable, but I'm not sure of the legality of selling it. In some urban backyards people are even raising rabbits for meat.
As for wild rabbit, when you think about it, these little foragers must be about the most sustainable (and frugal) meat you could eat. In Australia they are a pest, and in the country they're everywhere.
So what do you do with a rabbit? Well, plenty it seems. A quick look in my cookbooks revealed stews, ragu, pie and roasts. But first you will need to clean them and we soaked ours overnight in salted water. I found two useful videos here and here. (Just a warning, they are slightly graphic).
Some we left whole, while others we jointed. Not perfectly, but we managed. No harder than jointing a chicken. In fact, probably easier. I dried them all off once soaking was done and then most were bagged and stored in the freezer. I kept one out for last nights dinner.
I decided to make a traditional Italian Rabbit Pappardelle from Angela Hartnett's Cucina. It was really quite simple. Well, simple on the ingredients list, but not that simple. Not hard though. Just one of those time involved recipes, that if you are in the right mood, can be quite satisfying to make. Fortunately I was in the right mood.
So I chopped the carrot and onion (I didn't have celery on hand) with garlic and herbs. I browned the rabbit, caramelized the vegetables and herbs, added wine and stock. I cooked it until it almost fell off the bone. I sieved the stock, just leaving the liquid and then shredded the meat. There was surprisingly a good bowlful from that one little rabbit. I then simmered and reduced the meat with stock for ten minutes or so.
Meanwhile we made pappardelle pasta. By hand again, as I don't yet have that machine.
So Daniel came home from work that night to a pretty messy, chaotic, floury kitchen. But it had been a fun, adventurous evening in the kitchen.
And the taste? I have to say I am a definite convert. It was delicious. Light in flavour and despite the overused term, it most definitely did "taste like chicken". It was also a huge hit with the kids, whose approval does not come easily.
I think the thing with knowing the journey of your food makes you far more respectful of the animal, the meat and the unwillingness to waste any of it (next time I will ask for that liver). It makes a meal so much more that just preparing and eating. It gives a story to our food.
Have you ever eaten or cooked rabbit before? Would you try it?