Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Rabbit and Rosemary Ragu

We sanded the boom today. Not quite the whole 100 foot of it mind.  Due to the reduced crew numbers there were only three of us at it with the sandpaper, the captain down below at his desk.  It was a good day for it with a soft, steady autumn sun that encouraged the t-shirt out from under its cardy for a few hours, whistling away as we worked to a little music accompanied by the swish-swishing of sand paper on wood.

By God it was dull. Really, after a few hours of that you really do not need to do any more. I am saved from absolute insanity by my fortunate job description as chef in these circumstances and lunch must be cooked. Pity it realistically takes a mere 40 minutes to make lunch for 4 people. However it does offer enough variation to my day to keep me ploughing on through the afternoon. Swish-swishing away.

So cheering up and finding my mojo for the Rabbit part of this two-part blog, I have the recipe I promised. Will wants to cook this for his Mum and Dad so I’d best get it in.

This makes a very tasty, rich rabbit sauce to go with pasta (preferably the chestnut pasta in yesterdays blog. Though it is simple to make and full of autumnal flavours. The ingredients and method are undemanding and if you are making the pasta yourself then the easiness of the sauce frees you up to get on with that, or indeed any other lazy Sunday-type activities like lying on the sofa in front of the fire.

Rabbits can easily be bought whole in French supermarkets and I had this one in the freezer. I thought I might spare you any pictures but the thing is, this is cooking and it is healthy to know where your food is coming from. So there it is; a rabbit. As I said yesterday, they are very popular in France and should be, they taste fantastic. The reason you want a whole one is because (brace, brace) it is preferable that you make the stock with its head. Do not panic. You can use chicken stock if you must. It just won’t be the same and you’ll know you're being a sissy.

If you have any doubt that this is great recipe then take a look at the end results after I cooked this last Sunday.

Mmm, a fire, a bottle of red and a rich rabbit and rosemary sauce with chestnut pasta on a lazy Sunday night… Need I say more?

For 4 people you will need;

1 whole rabbit, jointed and head set aside for the stock
1 onion roughly chopped
6-8 cloves of garlic left whole in their skins
2 sticks of celery roughly chopped
2 tbsp of roughly chopped fresh rosemary, lightly bashed with pestle and mortar
1 tbsp dried thyme or a couple of large sprigs of fresh
2 bayleaves
Good guzzle of olive oil
1 glass of white wine (and one for you)

For the stock;
1 rabbit head
1 carrot finely chopped
1 celery stalk finely chopped
1 onion finely chopped
1 clove of garlic sliced
Sprig of rosemary
Sprig of dried thyme
1 bay leaf
6 peppercorns

For the sauce base;
2 small onions finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp fresh rosemary finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh sage finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh parsley finely chopped


  • Heat the oven to 200ºc, gas mark 6. Joint the rabbit roughly into largish pieces, setting the head aside (stay with me). Sear the rabbit pieces in a hot pan in some sunflower oil and put into a good and sturdy casserole dish. Roughly chop an onion and having given the garlic cloves a small and light thwack with the back of a knife, bung those in too. Add the herbs, bay leaves and the glass of white wine. Give it all a good drizzle with some olive oil and a seasoning of salt and pepper, cover and put into the oven. Turn the heat down immediately to 140ºc, gas mark 3. Roast gently for around an hour to two. No stress here.

  • When the rabbit is done use two forks to shred the meat off of the bones, it should come off with no hassle at all. Nice and easy. Squeeze the roasted garlic from the skins and set aside with the all the lovely rabbity juices in the roasting pan. You will need this for the final sauce.

  •  Now, fill a largish pan with 2.5 pints, 1.5 litres of water and pop your little rabbits head in along with all the other stock ingredients. Bring to a gentle boil, turn down the heat and let it simmer very, very gently for an hour or so. When its time is up, strain all the stock through a sieve into another pan and bring to a rolling boil to reduce by half. This will take about 15-20 minutes of boiling and will smell divine. Once the stock has reduced and all those lovely flavours intensified, set aside for the grand finale.

  • In a large non-stick frying pan, sauté the finely chopped onion in some sunflower oil and a tsp of sugar. Turn the heat to low and let it really soften and begin to colour, about 10-12 minutes. Add the cider vinegar, garlic and season with salt.

  • Let this cook for another 5 minutes then turn up the heat and add a ladleful of the rabbit juices from the roasting pan letting it bubble and reduce to a few tbsp’s. Carry on adding ladlefuls of the roasting juices, letting it reduce a little each time. Once all the roasting juices have been used pour all the stock in and let it bubble and thicken for a few minutes.

  • Turn the heat down and add the shredded rabbit and saved roasted garlic and cook gently for a few minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning as you wish. Just before it is ready to serve add the freshly chopped rosemary, sage and parsley.

  • Serve with tagliatelle or papperdelle and some crunchy sweet mange tout, some worthy red wine and curl up in front of the fire like we did.


The top mast is being pulled out tomorrow by a crane which will be pretty exciting and brings a small reprieve from sanding the boom. However in preparation for the next bout of sanding I will come prepared with a couple of great playlists on the old ipod. Best start that now, could take some time.

Thanks for reading.