Baked rabbit with peppers and courgettes Sunday roast

September 10, 2017 at 7:20 pm

With a pair of tender young rabbits fresh from the cricket field, I had considered a family BBQ for these fryers, but heavy showers and thunder put a stop to that idea and my mind turned to a Sunday roast with a difference.

These days I tend to just take the loins and back legs for most dishes, unless making bunny burgers, or pasties. Instead of kebabs from the loins and marinated legs on the barbie, I would oven bake everything in one tray. This proved to be a very successful tasty dish. More tasty than it looks my wife said.

 

Ingredients

500 grams approx (two young rabbits)

120 grams of smoked pancetta lardons

300 grams new potatoes quartered

one red pepper, sliced

one red onion, rough cut longways

two small courgettes sliced

2 cloves garlic

2 stripped sprigs of rosemary

1 tbs mixed herbs

2 tbs olive oil

250 mil dry cider, or white wine

Method

Place the herbs and garlic in a liquidiser and reduce to a paste.

Pour one tbs of the oil into a bowl, then mix in the herb paste, followed by the rabbit, cutting the loins into 25 mm chunks. Work the marinade into the meat and leave in the fridge for at least an hour.

Spread the loin pieces and lardons in a large baking tray, and then place the prepared vegetables into the marinading bowl and add the other tbs of oil, stirring and shaking to ensure full coverage. Pour over the top of the small meat pieces, then place the legs on the top.

Put the tray in the oven preheated to 220 degrees and leave for 30 minutes. Take out briefly, the potatoes and legs will already be browning. Turn over the veg and meat, mixing in the juices. Turn over the legs to allow even baking.

Pour over the cider, or wine. This will prevent the dish from drying out, with the bonus of providing a rich gravy. I used half a bottle of my own dry cider.

Return to the the oven for a further 45 minutes. Check and baste the dish after 30 minutes adding a dash more liquid if needed.

Serve straight from the dish.

 

Rabbit loin, smokey bacon and vegetable pie

February 16, 2016 at 12:00 pm

Following the success of my cottage pie using rabbit and bacon loins, this is an easy to prepare pastry pie variation, which allows any number to be made up to suit the family, or individual, which can be frozen for a later date if required.

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Ingredeients

500g of Rabbit Loins, removed from either side of the spine. Cut across the loin in bite sized chunks.

250g of Smoked Bacon Loins, sliced into lardons, then rough cut into 20 mm pieces.

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1 tbsp Rapeseed Oil

1 Large Onion, coarsely chopped

2 Cloves Garlic, finely chopped, or crushed

50g Frozen Peas

50g Frozen Sweet Corn

50g Frozen Chopped Green Beans

2 tbsp Plain Flour

1 Cup of Water

2 tbsp Cre’me Fraiche, or Double Cream

1 500g pack Short Crust Pastry

1 Egg

Method

Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onions and garlic until softened. Remove from the pan and introduce the mixed meat, increasing the heat to release the bacon fat, turning, but not browning the mix, while cooking through. Now add the cooked and frozen vegetables, then sprinkle over a tbsp of flour, adding water, stirring as you go. Bring to a boil, until the sauce begins to thicken, then mix in the cre’me fraiche, covering the contents and allow to cool.

Taking the easy way out, I use a pack of ready made short crust pastry. The quantities above will fill two 200 mm pie dishes, each enough for four adults. Start by cutting the pack in half, then dust the work top with a little flour, before rolling out the pastry to about 4 mm thick and laying it over the dish. Trim to the edges. Repeat for pie 2. Equally fill each dish with the cooled mixture, then roll out the remaining pastry to form the lids. Beat the egg in a dish and brush round the rim of the pie, before covering with the lid. Using a fork, pinch the edges of the pie together, then pierce the top to allow steam to escape. Finally brush the top of the lid with the beaten egg.

To cook, place in the oven at 200C for 30 minutes, or until brown.

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Rabbit loin, bacon and asparagus cottage pie

January 16, 2016 at 6:54 pm

With four rabbits earmarked for more bunny burgers, I set about separating the loins in preparation for a family favourite, which includes smoked bacon loins with asparagus baked under a cheesy potato topping.

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Ingredients

Serves 4

500g  Rabbit Loins, removed from either side of the spine. Sliced into bite size chunks across the loin

250g  Smoked Bacon Loin. Slice into lardons, then rough cut into 20 mm pieces

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1 tbsp rapeseed oil

1 large onion – coarsely chopped

125g Asparagus Spears rough cut into 30 mm lengths

I tbsp Plain Flour

2 tbsp Cre’me Fraiche, or Double Cream

1 cup Water

800g Mashed Potato add – 2 tbsp Butter, 2 tbsp grated Cheddar Cheese and 1 tbsp Milk. The potatoes can be quartered and boiled ready for mashing, as the meat is being prepared, the mash ready at the end of cooking.

2 tbsp Parmesan Cheese grated to act as a mash topping

This dish needs no seasoning, or stock, as the smoked bacon provides enough.

Method

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the onions, turning to soften for a few minutes. Remove from the pan, then add the asparagus pieces, increase heat until browned at the edges, then remove. Now introduce the two meats to the pan, the fat from the bacon will help cook the rabbit through, then add the vegetables again.

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Sprinkle over the flour, until it thickens, adding water, stirring as you go, bringing to the boil to thicken the sauce, then mix in the the cre’me fraiche, until all the contents are covered. Pour the the mixture into a large casserole dish.

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Now add the cheesy mashed potato to the dish, spooning it over to cover evenly, using a fork to spike up the surface. Sprinkle over the Parmesan, adding a tomato garnish, if wished. Place under a hot grill, until the top is browned and the cheese melted.

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 A simple, but very flavoursome dish, which can be ready, start to finish in just 30 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

Sloe gin making. A taste of Christmas.

November 3, 2015 at 8:14 pm

For many, their first taste of alcohol, was a sip of sweet sloe gin at Christmas, offered in my case by a kindly aunt to a curious nephew, much to the amusement of the other grown ups, who laughed at my initial shuddering response to the magic potion. The smooth, warming afterglow had me badgering for more, but the liqueur was considered too precious to waste on a mere child, although in reality, they were probably more concerned with the alcoholic effects on an eight year old.

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Sloes are the hard won fruit of the blackthorn, the spiky staple planting of English hedgerows, an effective barrier to grazing animals and humans alike. Collecting is always a painful activity, thorn proof trousers and jacket a must, the fruits in clusters surrounded by the sharpest of thorns, that nature can muster. Why they are so well protected is hard to understand, as anyone who had bitten into even the most ripe looking fruits will agree, you will only do it once. The immediate bitter flavour is followed by an intense astringency brought on by the tannin in the fruit, drying out the mouth.

Unrefined gin was once the only spirit available to the lower classes of England, brought over from Holland by soldiers returning from the Thirty Years War, it had provided “Dutch Courage” during the winter campaigns. Juniper berries were used to improve the flavour and no doubt sloe berries, readily available to the common man, were added by a few enterprising souls, the alcohol drawing out the natural sugars of the fruit.

Today London gin is a prized product, offering subtle flavours from several well known distillers and there is a wide choice to use as a base. I tend to keep an eye out for supermarket offers through the year, I do not drink gin, whiskey being my tipple, buying solely for sloe gin production.

Traditionally sloes were not picked, until after the first frosts of autumn, the cold bringing out the sugars. Once gathered, the skins had to be pricked with a thorn from the bush, or a silver pin. An old wive’s tale probably, but having picked your fruit and ended up with sore fingers from the inevitable snagging of the thorns, you added to the misery by pricking them all over again with a thorn, or pin. I have done it the hard way and it is impossible not to stab yourself, when faced with hundreds of sloes. These rules added to the mystique of sloe gin, making it a valued drink by it’s followers, masking the simplicity of it’s preparation.

We now have freezers, an overnight stint being enough to split the sloe skins on thawing. Once thawed, the berries should half fill an air tight jar, or bottle, castor sugar added, topped up by the gin, then left for at least three months. That is it, nothing fancy. The ratio of sugar is up to the taste of the producer, many adding a couple of tablespoons to start the process, topping up to taste, after straining off the fruit. What was passed down to me was half, and half. Half a Kilner jar of fruit, add half the fruit in sugar, then pour over the gin, the gin filling the gaps and dissolving the sugar. The jar should be kept in a cupboard and turned daily to distribute the sugar among the fruit, this should continue for a month, then at weekly intervals. The gin will gradually turn pink, then deep red. If begun in late October, or early November, the almond like flavour will have leeched out of the stones to give a pleasing, warming Christmas drink.

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Over the years I have built up a backlog of sloe gin and aim to strain off the liquid a year after I have made it, conveniently starting a new batch in last year’s jars. Strain through a muslin cloth, or coffee filters if preferred, into a dark glassed, screw top wine bottle and identify with the date to avoid mix ups later. The longer you can leave it, the richer the flavour.

 

 

Blackberry and Apple Jam

August 7, 2015 at 2:14 pm

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Blackberries are one of nature’s freely available bounties, even in cities there are wild corners where brambles grow, producing their fruits throughout the month of August. I am fortunate that my country pursuits give me access to land not visited by the general public, where the fruits are able to achieve their maximum size.

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A recent visit to a farm orchard provided me with the main ingredients for blackberry jam, fresh, fully fruited berries and unripe sour Bramley cooking apples.

INGREDIENTS

For 5 lbs of Jam

2 lbs of clean blackberries

3/4 lb of peeled and cored sour apples (cooking apples)

3 lb of sugar (Jam sugar if possible)

1/2 pint of water

METHOD

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Place the blackberries in a large saucepan, or preserving pan with 1/4 pint of water and stew slowly to bring out the juice and soften.

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Cut the apples into thin slices and stew slowly in 1/4 pint of the water, until soft.

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Add the apples to the blackberries and mix together, then pour in the sugar, turning and stewing, until the sugar is fully dissolved.

Rapidly bring up the heat, stirring the mix constantly to avoid burning the jam. This will liquefy the mix, the bubbles will growing bigger and noisier. This is a sign that the setting temperature is close. If a cooking thermometer is available, test the temperature at this point. When a temp of 220 F or 104 C is reached, the setting point, remove from the heat.

If no thermometer is available, place a dessert plate in a fridge before starting the process, so that it is cold, when the noisy boil begins. Remove the plate from the fridge and drip some of the hot liquid onto the plate, then return it for a minute to the fridge. The jam on the plate should have produced a skin, which will wrinkle, when pushed and will not stick to the finger, when lightly touched. Continue to stir and boil the jam, testing at intervals, until this condition is met. Another ready sign, is that the jam on the spoon will begin to congeal, watching for signs of drips solidifying.

A thin sugary scum will have formed on the top of the jam, which may be scraped to one side, before pouring the hot liquid jam into warmed, clean jam jars, using a jug. Pour a small amount into each jar and swirl round, before completely filling, to avoid breakage.

Once filled, the jars need to be sealed, ideally with readily available kits, which consist of a grease proof disc to drop onto the still hot jam, a larger cellophane disc, which is placed over the open neck of the jar and a rubber band, which is then used to retain the cellophane disc over the neck.  If lids are available, screw these on too. Belt and Braces.

Don’t forget to label your jam, name and date. This will avoid mixing up vintages over the years, as jam will begin to ferment, if left for several years.

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This was the result of my latest jam making session, 13 jars of Blackberry and Apple, with enough left over for a pie.

Rustic rabbit pie with cider

November 30, 2014 at 2:29 pm

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There are many ways to cook rabbit, some exotic and some plain, but you can’t beat the old country recipes, when it comes to a rabbit pie. Long before supermarkets and freezers, a rabbit would be brought home to be cooked up with whatever was in the larder, or garden that day, then baked in a pie for consumption at a later time. Arriving home with a big buck rabbit from my most recent outing, this was the theme for my rustic pie, my favourites, chorizo and garlic being banished from this dish.

In the larder were potatoes, a swede, carrots, onions, celery and few of the last tomatoes ripening in a dish, while a small tin of butter beans languished on the shelf. A pair of streaky bacon rashers from the fridge completed the list of ingredients, these to add a bit of fat and extra flavour. From the garden came a couple of rosemary sprigs, plus two bay leaves. Bringing these ingredients together would be a pint bottle of my home made dry cider to help tenderise the meat.

Method

Skin and joint the rabbit, discarding the pelvic triangle, while cutting the back and shoulders into three, to allow the meat to be left overnight in a pot to soak in water sprinkled with a dessert spoon of salt. This will leach out any remaining blood. The buck weighed about a kg and had enough meat for two 8 inch pies. Each one serving four people.

Select 200 grams of each of the vegetables, peel and chop into cm cubes, cutting the celery into 5 mm slices, while roughly dividing the tomatoes. The butter beans will be added later, along with a tablespoon of tomato ketchup.

Dry off the rabbit pieces. Heat a large frying pan, adding a tablespoon of cooking oil. Cut the bacon into 25  mm squares and lightly fry to brown on both sides, to bring out the fat, before browning off the rabbit to seal the meat. Remove from the pan and place in a casserole dish, covering the meat with the bacon. Now add the onions to the pan, turning until softened, removing and again covering the meat. Lightly pan fry the remaining vegetables,  again turning to bring out the juice. Now add half of the cider, continuing to stir, until boiling for a few minutes. Remove from the heat and pour over the meat, deglazing the pan. Empty the bottle of cider into the dish and drop in the rosemary sprigs and the bay leaves. A pinch of salt and a good dusting of ground black pepper is needed before the lid is put on and the dish is put in the hot oven at 150 C.

After about 90 minutes, test the meat for tenderness, a large rabbit like this one will take at least two hours before the meat is falling from the bone. At this stage carefully take out the pieces with two forks onto a shallow dish and pull the meat from the bones with the forks, shredding the meat, making sure no small bits of rib, etc escape. Remove the rosemary and bay leaves before tipping the meat back into the casserole dish. Drain off the butter beans and add in, then stir in the tablespoon of ketchup. This will sweeten up the sauce and add a bit of colour. I have also added Worcester Sauce in the same measure in the past, while a few frozen peas, or sweet corn can also be thrown in for good measure. There are no real hard and fast rules with this pie.

Place back in the oven, stirring every half hour, until the sauce has thickened and the vegetables softened. If you can resist eating the dish there and then, allow to cool, before making the pastry. In this instance, 500 g of shop bought short crust pastry was used, rolling out 5 mm thick discs to suit two 8 inch deep pie dishes. Lay the first layer of pastry into the dish and trim off to the edges, then put in the filling, topping it with a knob of butter, before covering with with the upper layer. The butter will melt down through the mix, adding a richness to the sauce. Trim and pinch to seal at the edges. An egg wash can be used to seal the top if required. It’s all down to time and presentation. Pierce the top with a fork and the pie is ready for cooking later at 200 C for 30 minutes, or freezing.

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Chimenea for hot smoked trout

July 11, 2013 at 5:52 pm

With the BBQ season in full swing, and if you own a patio chimenea, you may wish to try my method to produce some delicious smoked trout.

Many years ago, a friend used to smoke his trout using a length of clay soil pipe, standing upright on bricks. He would light a small wood fire in the gap between the bricks, then put wet oak chippings on the embers, hanging the filleted and prepared trout down the pipe. It worked a treat. This was always in my mind, when I bought the chimenea as a patio heater and have also used it to smoke mackerel.

Ingredients

A 2lb rainbow trout, filleted down to about a pound, removing back and pin bones. Leave the skin on.

Two table spoons of demerara sugar.

One table spoon of sea salt.

One dessert spoon of  ground black pepper.

One cup of hickory, or oak chips (available at garden centres) soaked in water for at least an hour

Preparation

Part of the smoking process is to draw the moisture out of the fish.

Mix the sugar, salt and pepper together in a bowl.

Place the fish skin side down in a dish and spread the sugar mix over the flesh, gently rubbing it in, until evenly coated. Cover the dish and leave in the fridge over night at least. I usually prepare mine the morning of the day before smoking and take it out in the afternoon of smoking. You will be amazed at the amount of liquid extracted by the mix. Wash off the salt/sugar mix under a tap and leave to dry in the covered dish. The texture of the flesh will have firmed up during the drying process.

Smoking

I often smoke the trout during a BBQ and scoop out some greyed off  embers as a heat source. Place these in the chimenea and test the heat coming out of the chimney. You should be able to hold your hand over for ten seconds. Tip some soaked chips over the coals, which will begin to smoke.

The fish should be put in clamps and suspended in the chimney, using a skewer though the clamps, to allow the smoke to rise up. To keep the fire low, cap the chimney and cover the door to the chimenea with foil. Keep the smoke going by adding more soaked chips at ten minute intervals.

Depending on the heat, the fish should be ready after about 25 minutes. It is easy and chef’s perks to test the flesh by lifting and pulling off a flake. The timing usually works out, so that the fish is ready, after the meat is consumed from the BBQ. If just smoking the fish, start a small fire using briquettes, or charcoal on the chimenea and allow to burn down to embers, before putting on the chips and suspending the fish.

Food Heaven on a Plate, helped down by a glass of Pimms

 

 

 

 

 

Rhubarb and Ginger Jam

June 26, 2013 at 6:20 pm

With the rhubarb season in full swing, why not try making rhubarb and ginger jam. The unique flavour of the bitter sweet rhubarb combines perfectly with the zing if the ginger. This is a simple recipe for 4lbs of jam.

Ingredients

2 lb fresh rhubarb

2 lb preserving sugar

4 oz of ginger root

Method

Wash and cut the rhubarb into roughly one inch lengths. Place in a large bowl.

Peel and chop the ginger into thin slices 2 mm thick, then cut to smaller pieces 6 to 8 mm long. If you like a ginger surprise, then leave the ginger in larger pieces.

Add the ginger to the bowl of rhubarb and mix in.

Pour in the sugar and stir together. Cover the bowl and leave for 24 hours. After this time the sugar will have drawn the juice and flavour from the fruit, leaving a semi liquid mix. Transfer to a preserving pan, or a large sauce pan. Bring to the boil slowly and continue to boil gently, stirring frequently for approximately 12 minutes.

Test that the jam is ready by placing a small amount on a cold plate for a few seconds. If it wrinkles, when pushed, it’s ready. If not, give the jam another few minutes and try again. When ready, leave to cool for ten minutes, while you thoroughly clean your jam jars, which will still be warm when you pour in the jam. Immediately place a waxed disc on top of the jam, followed by the lid. This will prevent any chance of mould forming, when stored. When cool, label up the jars for future use.

Baked rabbit loins in pesto and bacon parcels.

June 20, 2013 at 10:50 am

The best parts of a rabbit are the loins running either side of the spine. A quick, easy and very tasty way to cook these is to bake them in foil, wrapped in bacon with red pesto. As in the illustration, they compliment a stir fry perfectly.

Ingredients

1 pair of rabbit loins, filleted. (per person)

2 rashers of smokey bacon cut in strips (two per rasher, or single streaky)

1 heaped table spoon of red pesto (Sainsbury or Waitrose)

As an alternative to pesto, try mixing soft cheese with mixed Italian herbs to add to the chopped chorizo.

I always have some chorizo sausage in the fridge and a 4mm slice finely chopped, added to the “sandwich” can give an extra boost to the flavour.

Kitchen foil to suit

Method

Liberally coat the loins with the pesto, then lengthwise put them together side by side, making sure there is plenty of pesto between them like a sandwich. Take the strips of bacon and wrap them at an angle round the loins to make a parcel. Using a square of foil, loosely wrap the completed parcel leaving an air gap and seal the top. Repeat for each parcel.

Bake in a hot oven at 200C for twenty minutes, then open the foil to allow the bacon to brown and bake for a further five minutes. Pour the juices from the foil over the parcel and enjoy. As a winter dish, serve on a bed of mashed swede and potato, with a side of chopped bacon, onion, red pepper, tomato and mushroom, softened in a frying pan. Delicious.

 

 

 

 

Rabbit and pigeon pasty with chorizo

March 15, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Pasties were the original convenience food, ideal for pinic, lunch, or dinner, hot, or cold and I have adapted the traditional recipe to suit the hunter.

Ingredients

One boned rabbit (400 to 500 grams)

One pigeon breast (100 grams)

Cherizo sausage (50 grams)

One smoked streaky bacon rasher (50 grams)

One onion, finely chopped

I clove garlic, crushed or finely chopped

1 TBSP Olive oil

One medium potato (200 grams) Peeled and chopped into 1 cm cubes

Swede (200 grams) Peeled and chopped into 1 cm cubes

Carrot (200 grams) Peeled and cut into 1 cm cubes

One TBSP mixed herbs, or fresh herbs thyme and rosemary finely chopped

One TBSP Worcestershire sauce

Salt and Black Pepper

Pastry

Shortcrust pastry is readily available from super markets, but if you wish to make your own, this is how:

500 grams of plain flour

250 grams butter

1 TSP salt

300 ml of water

1 egg

Put the flour into a bowl and sprinkle over the salt. Chop the butter into cubes and add to the bowl, squeezing the flour and butter together and mixing with your fingers, until a fine bread crumb texture is produced. Now add the water in stages to produce a dry ball shaped dough and cover.

Method

Put the potato, swede and carrot cubes in a saucepan, cover with water and parboil for eight minutes. Strain off and leave to cool. Place the onions and garlic in a frying pan with the olive oil and lightly fry them until softened. Leave to cool.

Slice the meat, bacon  and sausage and roughly mix, then with the large cutting plate fitted, feed into a meat grinder. This makes for a better mix of flavours. Sprinkle over the mixed herbs and Worcestershire sauce and stir into the mix. Season with salt and black pepper. Add the onions and vegetables and mix thoroughly with the meat mix.

Divide the dough into two and roll out on a floured surface, flipping and turning until it is 3 to 4 mm thick. Using as a guide cut round a cereal bowl to produce a disc approx 170 mm dia. Repeat with all the dough, which should produce eight discs of pastry. Load two heaped table spoons of the mixture in an oval shape along the centre line of each disc and brush the edges with beaten egg. Draw the pastry up around the mix and crimp the pastry shut in a zig zag between your fingers. Brush over the upper surfaces with the beaten egg to give a glaze when cooked.

If bacon, or cherizo is not used, then a knob of butter should be added at the top of each mix to aid cooking, as rabbit and pigeon breast have no natural fat. These are now ready to cook in a hot oven for 30 minutes until golden, or freeze for another day.