(Lapin a la Cocotte)
Rabbit is actually pretty easy to get hold of these days, and word has it that in the countryside you can get them for free from over-burdened gamekeepers. Here in South East London, I easily bought a whole one, jointed, from our brilliant butchers just last week, in an unlikely spot off the Old Kent Road. Light, like chicken, but definitely falling in to the game category, these cotton-tail friends make a welcome autumnal alternative.
Double amazing was that this cocotte, or casserole, lasted pretty much all weekend. It served a dinner party on Friday evening, a family lunch on Saturday and I turned it into a barley soup on Sunday. The kids loved it, even in full knowledge that Peter Rabbit was warming their drizzly afternoon bellies.
1 large rabbit, jointed into 6 pieces, giblets removed
6 tbsp plain flour
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp garlic granules
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp British rapeseed oil
6 thick slices smoked streaky bacon, roughly chopped
1 onion, peeled and diced
4 sticks of celery, diced
1 cup white wine
2 fresh bay leaves
8 slim carrots, peeled and trimmed
2 cups petit pois
1 bunch curly parsley, finely chopped
Place the giblets in a small pan and cover with water, about 1L. Place a lid on the pan and bring to a gentle simmer for twenty minutes or so. Meanwhile, mix the flour, salt, garlic granules and pepper in a mixing bowl and then toss the rabbit pieces in the flour. Be sure to coat these entirely. Heat the rapeseed oil in a large heavy bottomed pan on a moderate flame. Add the rabbit pieces, probably in two batches. Crisp the meat a little and then remove after about 5 minutes when golden and turned. Set these aside. Strain the rabbit stock, discarding the giblets.
You may need to add a bit more oil to the pan. Sautee the bacon on a low flame until it’s just crisp. Add the onion and celery. Keep an eye on the saucepan, as you want these to turn translucent but not brown. Mix frequently. Return the rabbit pieces to the pot. Pour over 750ml of the rabbit stock and a cup of white wine. Add bay leaves and bring the pot to the boil. Simmer gently for 30 minutes or until the meat is tender. Now add the carrots. Simmer for a further 10 minutes, then add the peas, and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Both the carrots and peas should be well cooked and not al dente. Serve with finely chopped parsley.