Monday, 10 June 2013

Week 20 - Rabbit Stew with Dumplings

I am a long time lover of rabbit but have always been a little scared to give cooking it a go. So many small bones and so many things that could go wrong. I decided to buy my rabbit whole and have a go at jointing it myself. After finding Jamie's How To Joint a Rabbit I realised it really wasn't that hard and had a bit of fun with it. Not for the faint hearted as I know not everyone can handle an animal in its natural form but nice to know I am capable.

One thing I was a little concerned about was the amount of time this stew was being cooked for. Really only about 1 and a half hours which to me sounded like a very short time for rabbit, especially when some of those pieces are quite large. Those concerns were validated in the end result which was tough and a little dry. Everything else was great. I make damper quite a lot so loved the idea of dumpling toppers and have stolen that idea for other recipes since then. So not all bad, but needs a little re-jigging next time.

Book: Cook with Jamie

Recipe: Tender-as-you-like rabbit stew with the best dumplings ever


Serves 6-8

For the Dumplings
400g self raising flour
200g butter
a bunch of fresh tarragon, finely chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ a nutmeg

For the Stew

2 rabbits jointed and cut into 10 pieces
olive oil
a knob of butter
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 rashers of streaky bacon, finely sliced
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
250g of mushrooms, cleaned and torn
a large handful of baby onions, peeled
2 330ml cans Mackeson's or John Smith's
850ml chicken stock


Preheat the oven to 190°C. To make your dumplings, rub together your flour, butter and tarragon with a good pinch of salt and pepper (you could also do this in a food processor). Using a fork, mix in enough milk to give you an unsticky dough. Bring it together until it's quite stiff, then flour your hands and kneed it into a rough. Roll the dough into a big sausage shape and cut it up into 18 equal sized pieces. Roll these into little balls in your hands, grate over the remaining nutmeg and place on a tray in the fridge.

Get your rabbit pieces and coat each of them with flour, shaking off any excess. Heat a deep ovenproof pot about 30cm in diameter, with a little olive oil and a knob of butter, add the rabbit in batches and cook for about 5 minutes until golden on all sides. After the final batch, return the pieces to the pot and add a good pinch of salt and pepper and the bacon. Carry on cooking for a couple of minutes until the bacon is crispy, keeping the rabbit moving around the pan at the same time. Add the rosemary sprigs, mushrooms and onions an continue frying for another 10 minutes, by which time the meat will be nicely coloured and the veg softened. 

Mix in a tablespoon of flour, pour in the beer and stock, cover and simmer for half an hour. Then put the dumplings on top of the stew with about 1cm between them. They will act as a kind of a lid, allowing the stew to retain moisture and not to boil dry. When perfectly cooked they will crisp up on top and stay bun like and soft on the bottom - delicious! Drizzle them with olive oil and put the pot into the preheated oven for 45 minutes. 

Changes Made: I halved the recipe. We just cannot seem to be able to buy baby onions so I substituted shallots and used VB for the lager beer. 

Results: For all that work it did not turn out like I expected. Maybe it was the time the rabbit cooks for before adding any liquid, or just the overall time in the oven. The meat was dry and tough and I really felt like it needed another 3-4 hours in the oven. But the dumplings were the saving grace, so yummy and went well with the sauce in the stew. 

Next Time: Cook for a lot longer, there will be a next time as I love rabbit and really want to get this one right!

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