Lapin à la moutarde: I got the gist of it - shallots, garlic, mustard, wine, cream, and slow cooking - but needed some guidance, having never cooked rabbit before. I consulted some experts.
Larousse Gastronomique: Recipe is a simple one. Rub meat with mustard, season, and roast, basting frequently, adding wine and cream to the meat juices at the end to make a sauce. Suggests serving with pasta.
Leiths Cookery Bible: Recommends marinating the rabbit overnight, and adding tarragon and bacon to the creamy mustard sauce.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall gives rabbit generous coverage in his wonderful Meat Book. He's not too pleased with the popularity of farmed rabbits, finding their meat "terribly bland", and intensively bred for size rather than flavour. But farmed was all I could find. He stews rabbit with bacon, cider and a touch of honey.
Nigel Slater: Not surprisingly, the simplest rabbit recipe - just cream and mustard - cooked for only 25 minutes (not long enough, surely?).
Gary Rhodes: Rabbit Carbonara, a twist on the French classic, replacing the mustard with Parmesan, and poaching the meat separately in chicken stock before adding it to the made sauce.
I eventually decided to keep it classic, and adapted Raymond Blanc's recipe from February's Observer Food Monthly magazine. Here's the recipe, and I urge you to try it. The meat was moist and succulent, the sauce indulgent and rich. I couldn't get hold of fresh tarragon, but do add a sprig or two should you have some to hand. I added cream, thyme, and a touch of lemon juice, and cooked the dish for longer than he suggests.
- 2 small wild rabbits, or 1 large farmed rabbit (ask your butcher to joint the rabbit for you)
- sea salt and black pepper
- 1 rounded tbsp Dijon mustard
- 4 tbsp plain flour
- 50g unsalted butter
- olive oil
- 1/2 medium white onion, peeled and cut into 6 wedges, or 6 shallots
- 6 garlic cloves, skin on
- 150ml white wine
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 150ml water
- 6 black peppercorns
- 3 sprigs of thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 a lemon
- 100ml double cream
- 1 tbsp chopped flatleaf parsley, to garnish
Preheat the oven to 140C. Put the rabbit pieces in a large bowl and season generously. Add the mustard, and turn the pieces to ensure each one is coated in a thin film of mustard. Scatter the flour on a plate. Dip each piece of rabbit in the flour to coat, patting off any excess.
In a large flameproof casserole over a medium heat, melt the butter and heat until lightly foaming. Sear the rabbit pieces in the hot butter, in batches if necessary, for 7-8 minutes, turning only once or twice, to colour them all over.
Meanwhile, heat a glug of olive oil in a small pan and sweat the onion and garlic over a medium heat for 10 minutes, seasoning lightly after a few minutes. In a separate small pan, boil the wine for 30 seconds to reduce.
Add the wine vinegar to the rabbit and reduce the liquid down to a syrup. Add the garlic and onion, reduced wine, water, peppercorns, and herbs. Stir, then cover with a lid and cook in the oven until tender, stirring occasionally, approximately 1 1/2 hours. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding a small squeeze of lemon juice.
To finish the dish, using a slotted spoon, transfer the rabbit to a warmed dish. Place the casserole over a high heat, add the cream, and reduce the liquid by one-third. Pour the sauce over the pieces of rabbit, and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with braised lettuce and peas, French beans, boiled/sauteed new potatoes or warm crusty bread. Or, de-bone and serve with pasta, as Lizzie of Hollow Legs suggests (see her own recipe here), as does Larousse.