Game plan

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 November, 2009, 12:00am

Rabbit is a difficult meat to get right. It has very little fat so if it's cooked incorrectly, it can be dry and stringy. The legs are muscular and tough and benefit from slow braising while the loin is more like the breast of a chicken: it's best when cooked quickly.

You can buy frozen rabbit legs in supermarkets such as Oliver's while City'super sells whole rabbit. If you get the butcher to cut up the rabbit for you, ask for the bones and other trimmings to make soup.

Braised rabbit with white wine, mustard and pearl onions (pictured)

This recipe is from food stylist Vivian Herijanto.

6 rabbit legs (thawed, if frozen)

1 bottle (750ml) dry white wine

250 grams onion, diced

180 grams carrot, diced

50 grams celery, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

4 thyme sprigs

About 60ml canola oil

1 tbsp plain (all-purpose) flour

450ml unsalted chicken stock, preferably home-made

200 grams pearl onions, peeled

30 grams Dijon mustard

About 80ml cream

Fresh parsley, chopped (optional)

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put the rabbit legs, wine, onion, carrot, celery, garlic and thyme in a large bowl and mix thoroughly to combine. Cover with cling-film and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the legs from the marinade and pat them dry with paper towels. Season the legs with salt and pepper. Strain the marinade through a sieve into a bowl and put the vegetables and liquid separately to one side.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Heat some oil in a heavy pan with a tight-fitting lid, preferably an enamelled cast-iron Dutch oven. When the oil is very hot, brown the rabbit legs on both sides; do this in batches so the pan is not crowded, adding more oil as needed. Remove the legs from the pan and set them aside.

Use the same pan to cook the reserved vegetables, adding oil if necessary. Cook the vegetables over a medium flame and use a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and cook, stirring constantly, for about two minutes. Stir in the reserved wine marinade then turn the heat to high, bring to the boil and cook until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the rabbit legs and chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan then put it in the oven and cook at 180 degrees for about 1? hours or until the legs are tender when poked with a fork.

While the rabbit is cooking, bring a pot of salted water to the boil, add the pearl onions and cook for 10 minutes or until tender. Strain them in a colander.

Remove the rabbit legs from the pan and set them aside. Strain the braising liquid through a colander into a clean pan, pres- sing on the solids to get out as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids. Bring the liquid to a simmer and cook until reduced by half. Stir in the mustard, salt and pepper and enough cream to give the sauce a light coating consistency. Simmer for five minutes then put the rabbit and pearl onions into the pan and simmer for another five minutes to warm the ingredients. Sprinkle with chopped parsley, if using, before serving.

Rabbit loin with dried fruit, prosciutto and buttered cabbage

Use Savoy cabbage, if possible. Head cabbage is also good but it needs more time to cook.

30 grams unsalted butter

1 garlic clove, halved

1 tsp whole cumin seeds

500 grams Savoy or head cabbage, shredded

About 100ml unsalted chicken stock, preferably home-made

4 boneless rabbit loins

About eight dried apricot halves or four pitted prunes

4 thin slices prosciutto

Cooking oil, for pan-frying

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. If using dried apricot, put it in a bowl, cover with warm water and soak for 15 minutes. Cut each apricot half into two pieces; or quarter each prune lengthwise. Use a sharp, thin knife (preferably one for filleting fish) to poke a hole down the centre of each rabbit loin, through the entire length, then twist the knife slightly to create a narrow cavity. Push the apricot or prune pieces into the hole so the fruit runs the length of each loin. Season the rabbit lightly with salt (prosciutto is salty) and more heavily with pepper. Wrap each loin with a slice of prosciutto in an overlapping spiral and set it seam-side down on a plate.

Melt the butter over a medium flame in an oven-proof pan, add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the cumin seeds and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant. Add the cabbage and some salt and pepper, then stir-fry over a high flame until the cabbage is wilted. Stir in the stock and cook over a high heat until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the vegetable is crisp-tender.

While the cabbage is cooking, heat some oil in a skillet until it is very hot. Place the prosciutto-wrapped rabbit loins seam-side down in the skillet and cook until well browned then turn the pieces over and brown the other side. Transfer the rabbit to the pan with the cabbage, nestling the meat among the vegetables. Put the pan in the oven and cook for about 10 minutes or until the rabbit is done - it should be a little pink inside. Cut the rabbit into thick slices before serving.

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