Friday, 4 September 2015

Wild rabbit with lardo, heritage carrots, wheat and green olives

One of the great joys of working in a shop is the constant interaction with regular customers. I’ve made some good friends from this, and it’s always lovely to have a catch up and see what people have been up to that week. It makes the job so much more than providing a simple service and selling products, and a busy morning is always brightened up when a familiar face comes along. One day a few weeks ago, I was listening to someone describing how he planned to go shooting rabbits on his friend’s farm at the weekend. It sounded like fun, but I had completely forgotten by the time the following week when he arrived clutching a brace for me. 

Food is always a wonderful and meaningful present, and I was determined to make something special with these rabbits, rather than simply and rather flippantly chucking them into a stew. I’ve also been cooking a lot of simpler recipes on this blog of late, so I wanted to push myself and see if I could come up with something a bit special. I’ve cooked with rabbit a few times previously, once when challenged by The Ginger Pig last year, and the time making a soft and comforting ragu with polenta. I love the gamey richness of the meat, delicate, deep and tender.
Choosing what to serve it with was the easy bit. I thought about the rabbit on the farm, and what I could imagine it having a little nibble on here and there. It seems like an almost cruel joke serving rabbit with carrots, but the flavours balance so well, and there are currently an abundance of beautiful multi-coloured bunches available. The other dominant flavours on the plate are thyme and green olives, both spiking with little bursts that contrast yet don’t interrupt the meat.
It is well worth getting more than just the two rabbits, and bumping up the amount that you braise. Not only will this lead to an intense sauce, but you will be rewarded with a pile of wonderfully succulent, almost pulled rabbit. The next night I added dried oregano, fennel seed and sage, and stirred in more butter than I probably should to create a deeply satisfying ragu served with thick homemade pappardelle. Heavenly.
Serves 4
2 wild rabbits, portioned into legs, racks and loins. Livers and bones kept.
For the braised rabbit:
The legs, bones and trimming from the rabbit 
3 shallots, finely chopped 
2 carrots, chopped 
2 cloves of garlic, sliced 
5 sprigs of thyme 
1 bay leaf 
1 large glass of dry white wine 
2 litres of good chicken stock 

The livers from the rabbit, finely chopped 
1 shallot, finely chopped 
75g smoked bacon or pancetta, finely chopped 
2 knobs of butter 
12 rashers of lardo
For the racks and loins:
4 small pieces of rabbit loin, trimmed of sinew 
4 small rabbit racks, trimmed 
1 large knob of butter 
5 sprigs of thyme 
1 garlic clove
For the sauce:
1.5 litres of the strained rabbit braising stock 
1 knob of butter 
½ a lemon, juice only
For the faro:
1 cup of faro wheat or pearl barley 
500ml of the rabbit braising stock
For the carrot puree:
4 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped 
500ml chicken stock 
½ a lemon, juice only 
1 large knob of butter 
2 tbsp olive oil
For the roasted carrots:
1 large bunch of heritage carrots, scrubbed and trimmed 
5 sprigs of thyme
To finish:
A few of the carrot tops, washed 
A handful of good green olives, stoned and sliced 
A bunch of radishes, thinly sliced 
Thyme flowers

First get the rabbit legs on to braise. Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan to a medium-high temperature. Season the rabbit legs and bones well, then brown quickly and transfer to a side plate. Add the shallot, carrots, garlic and herbs to the pan and fry until lightly caramelised, then pour in the wine. Reduce by two-thirds, and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any crust from the bottom of the pan. Return the rabbit to the saucepan and top up with the stock. Bring to the boil, then cover and gently simmer for 1 ½ hours, or until the rabbit is very tender.
When the rabbit is cooked, remove the legs from the liquid and shred well with two forks. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Strain the rest of the stock into a clean saucepan, reserving a quarter separately. Bring the main quantity of stock to the boil, and reduce until only about 200ml of thickened sauce remains. Whisk in the lemon juice and butter, check for seasoning, then remove from the heat and cover until needed. 

Pour 1 tbsp of oil into a frying pan and bring to a medium heat. Fry the rabbit livers, pancetta and shallot for a couple of minutes, until tender. Stir in the butter until melted, then tip into the bowl containing the shredded rabbit leg. Combine well, checking that there is enough seasoning. Once the mixture has cooled, lay 3 slices of lardo on a board, so they are slightly overlapping. Spoon some of the braised rabbit mixture on top, then roll the lardo around the filling, tucking in the ends. Repeat with the remaining lardo until you have 4 little parcels. Place onto a lined baking tray and set aside.
For the faro, pour the reserved stock into a small saucepan and add the grains. Bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 25-30 minutes, or until just tender. Add a little more water if it starts to dry out.
To make the carrot puree, bring the stock to the boil in a small saucepan. Add the carrots, then simmer for 15-20 minutes, until very tender. Pour the contents of the saucepan into a food processor and add the lemon juice and butter, along with a little seasoning. Blend to a smooth puree. With the engine still running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil, until completely emulsified. 

Preheat the oven to 190⁰C. Scrub and trim the heritage carrots and then scatter onto a baking tray. Add the thyme sprigs and coat with a little olive oil and seasoning. Roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until just tender and caramelised on the outside.
Slide the baking tray with the lardo-wrapped rabbit into the oven and allow to heat up for 6-8 minutes.
Pour 1 tbsp of oil into a heavy frying pan and bring to a high heat. Season the racks and loins of rabbit and add to the pan along with the butter, thyme and garlic. Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side, basting continuously with the butter.
To serve, place a piece of the lardo-wrapped rabbit to one side of each plate, and a dollop of the carrot puree on the other. Arrange the roasted carrots, rack and loin, and scatter on some of the faro. Finish with the sliced olives, radishes, carrot tops and thyme flowers.

No comments:

Post a Comment