Man Food by Mark Hix - Rabbit

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Is rabbit back on the menu? I wonder if we Brits, universally recognised as a bunch of softies when it comes to meat, can hack it.

During periods of war, it was the flesh of choice as it was a fraction of the price of poultry, equally tasty and very easy to come by.

I remember trying it a few times as a kid and enjoying it very much, though my grandmother didn’t do much with it bar bunging it in her old casserole pot and leaving it to stew. A lot of people were completely put off rabbit during the myxomatosis outbreak of the Fifties, which killed loads of them off and tarnished their good name.

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For me, rabbit is a wholly underestimated meat as it’s a cheap, tasty alternative to game. Demand is obviously increasing as bigger, meatier rabbits are being farmed for the table now, though these can taste more like chicken. The front and back legs need to be slow-cooked — braising works well — but don’t be tempted to braise the saddle as it’s a waste of tender meat that should be cooked pink and used in a salad.

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Alternatively, make a coarse pâté with the livers, and spread it on toast. I know I said rabbit is cheap, but I’ve seen it sold for crazy prices in some London butchers’ shops. If you live in the countryside, however, it’s another story — especially if you buddy up with someone who shoots or nets them.


Wild rabbit in Somerset cider

40g flour, plus more for dusting
12 front and back rabbit legs, halved at the joint
Vegetable oil for frying
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
25g butter
400ml dry cider
750ml chicken stock, or a good-quality chicken stock cube in that amount of hot water
1 handful wild mushrooms
3tbsps double cream
1tbsp chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Serves 4
Cider goes really well with rabbit and makes a perfect country-style meal. We use Julian Temperley’s Burrow Hill Somerset cider, but you can use any dry cider, really, for braising. You can serve this with everything from mashed potatoes and roasted root vegetables to creamy polenta.

Lightly flour the rabbit legs and season with salt and pepper. Heat vegetable oil in a frying pan and brown the rabbit legs on both sides, then drain on kitchen paper.

In a heavy-based saucepan, gently cook the onion in the butter until soft. Add the flour and stir. Gradually add the cider, stirring well to stop lumps forming, then add chicken stock. Bring to the boil, add the rabbit legs and season with a little more salt and pepper. Simmer, covered with a lid, for 1hr 15mins, or until the rabbit is tender.

Remove the legs with a slotted spoon and set aside. Sauté the mushrooms in another pan for 2-3min. Add cream to the cooking liquor and simmer until the sauce has thickened. Put the legs back into the sauce with the mushrooms and chopped parsley and bring back to the boil.

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