:: Rabbit is one of my favourite meats to cook. Because it’s so lean, it does need to be cooked on the bone and preferably in a slow oven to ensure it remains moist but it’s very versatile in the number of flavours it can be paired with.
As kids we ate rabbit from a fairly young age, even though we had pet rabbits roaming the garden throughout our childhood. It’s a pity that a lot of people are put off eating it because of the cute bunny factor because it’s so lovely and lean with a subtle wild flavour.
1/4 cup olive oil
1.6kg rabbit, jointed
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 leek, white part sliced
400ml dry sherry
1 star anise
1 tsp each juniper berries, coriander seeds and whole black peppercorns
6 garlic cloves
2L good quality chicken stock
1/2 bunch of thyme
400g can borlotti beans, drained
1 cup chestnut flesh
500g fresh pappardelle
50g unsalted butter
Chopped flat-leaf parsely and grated fresh parmesan to serve
When purchasing rabbit, you can ask to have it jointed at the same time. It’s easy enough to joint it yourself (just divide into the two hindlegs, saddle pieces, forelegs and neck) but it saves a bit of time asking your butcher to do it for you.
Preheat your oven to 100°C. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a flameproof casserole over medium-high heat. Cook rabbit for 5-6 minutes until golden and starting to brown. Remove meat from pan and reduce heat to medium.
Add remaining oil and cook onion, carrot, leek and celery until golden. Add sherry and simmer for 7-8 minutes or until reduced by half. Add spices, garlic, stock and thyme and bring to the boil.
Cover and place in the preheated oven for one and a half to two hours until the meat is tender and separates easily from the bone.
Whilst rabbit is cooking, you’ll need to prepare the chestnuts. Slice either a horizontal slash or a large cross along the flat side before boiling.
Place chestnuts in a small saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to the boil, and simmer for three minutes. Remove from the heat. Scoop out a few at a time and using a small knife, peel off the shell and inner skin. This is a particularly tedious process and as they cool they become more difficult to peel, so keep them in hot water until you are ready.
Once the rabbit is cooked and completely tender, remove from the stewing liquid. Strain liquid and pour into a clean saucepan over medium-high heat. Simmer rapidly for about 45 minutes or until reduced by half, then add butter and stir until melted and combined.
Pick meat from the the rabbit, shedding larger pieces, and add to the reduced cooking liquid with the beans and chestnuts. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes until slightly reduced and the ragu is just binding the meat.
Cook the pappardelle until al dente and then toss with the ragu sauce until all the pasta is coated. Place in serving bowls and top with chopped parsley and parmesan.