Conejo al Ajillo (Rabbit with Garlic)

conejo al ajillo

Conejo al Ajillo (rabbit with garlic) is an extremely popular Iberian dish with many regional variations, as you will see if you look it up online. Rabbit itself is very much considered meat in Spain, unlike the UK where most people (these days) see it as a pet. It is said that the Carthaginians, arriving in Spain (around 300 BC), named the region Ispania (from Sphan meaning rabbit), land of rabbits, which later became Hispania under the Romans and España today.

chopped bunny

Conejo al Ajillo recipe (serves 2):

1 wild rabbit (2-3 lbs) chopped into small pieces
1 head of garlic (peeled)
6 medium potatoes (thickly sliced)
lots of extra virgin olive oil
6 pieces of thyme
2 small branches of rosemary
1 heaped teaspoon dulce (sweet) pimentón de la Vera
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 dessertspoons plain flour
sea salt and cracked black pepper (to taste)
half a lemon

Cut up the rabbit ahead of time and sprinkle some salt and pepper all over. A good butcher will chop the rabbit for you if you’d prefer. Don’t bother with the rib cage, there’s barely any meat on it – use it for making stock instead. I included the liver, kidneys and heart in my dish, but you can relegate them to stock too, if you are not keen.

conejo

Heat about 1 cm extra virgin olive oil in a large frying pan – it needs to be quite hot, but not smoking. Give the rabbit pieces a light dusting of flour (just before cooking) and fry them until golden (about 10 minutes). Remove the rabbit while you cook the potatoes.

patatas fritas

I like to thickly slice the potatoes raw and bring them to the boil in water (plunge into cold water and allow to dry) before frying. This gives them a nice fluffy center. Don’t crowd the slices in the pan – they can be cooked in batches. Remove the cooked potatoes to a plate and add salt to taste.

ajos

Meanwhile, squash (slightly) and peel, an entire head of garlic (some recipes call for two heads – your choice).

garlic and herbs

Put the garlic and the leaves from the thyme and rosemary into a mortar and give it all a good grind with the pestle to make a herb and garlic paste (a pinch of salt helps in the grinding process).

salsa

Pour most of the olive oil out of the frying pan, then (on a low heat) stir in the garlic paste and red wine vinegar (use a small glass of dry white wine if you prefer) before combining the rabbit and potato in the pan. Sprinkle on the pimentón de la Vera and mix that in too. Give the conejo al ajillo about 10 minutes more on low, to allow most of the vinegar to cook off – you will need to keep stirring so it doesn’t stick. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the rabbit before serving. Reserve the remaining olive oil for cooking roast potatoes – it should keep for a few days.

allioli

Serve with salad and lots of allioli (see my recipe here). It has occurred to me that the potato and rabbit would also work well with the allioli poured on top (like this recipe) then cooked in the oven for 20-30 minutes.

This smelled and tasted so good that I had to stop myself eating the lot in one go! Pair the rabbit with a robust Spanish red, like Carta Roja Monastrell.

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About Mad Dog

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27 Responses to Conejo al Ajillo (Rabbit with Garlic)

  1. This is a wonderful recipe. Wish I had a rabbit source 😦

  2. Eha says:

    Delightful! Shall try your version soonest! Neither in my birth country in the Baltics nor here in Australia is the bunny regarded as anything but another and tasty ‘protein source’! Here it has usually been looked at as a pest!! I love the ‘lots of garlic’ and the chillies I have not used and the elegance of thyme . . . actually our supermarkets usually do not sell, but no problem with specialist butchers . . .

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks, I’m glad you like it – some stupid Englishman took rabbits to Australia, but I suppose they are more useful than the cane toad! I’m very happy to help in population control here – rabbit is delicious.

      • Eha says:

        ‘some stupid Englishman’ . . . . period, full stop , Thank the blessed Lord have not made ‘friends; with cane toads’ 🙂 ! . . . .rabbit Is delicious !!!

  3. Wow, md! This is a legit Spanish meal. Yes to all of it. Nice mortar and pestle. That aioli is beautiful too. What a way to return. I literally just thought of you today. So great to see you here with such a great recipe. Hope you’re well!

  4. Conor Bofin says:

    Fantastic simple recipe MD. You are inspiring me to get some rabbit. Most of the rabbit sold here in Ireland comes from France. Good to read the history of the naming too. It adds some weight to the case for cooking Spanish style rabbit. I have an oxtail stew, in the style to post. It was delicious.

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Conor – it’s almost as if there aren’t enough ingredients, but often, less is more. Isn’t it amazing that the countryside is full of rabbits, but the shops sell imports from France and, of course, rabbit are a pest and need to be controlled! I’m lucky to have a stall in the farmers’ market where they sell wild ones for £4 or two for £7.

  5. Ron says:

    Enjoyable read, with solid history and a great recipe. Your Conejo al Ajillo sounds like the perfect match up for that hare I hope to soon enjoin into my kitchen pot. Regrettably, thus far Mr. Hare has not crossed my sights.

  6. In the States they are considered pets, too. You’d have children running away screaming saying you killed the Easter Bunny! 😀 Delicious dish, though. I assume this would work with some other protein? Chicken? Pork?

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Kathryn – people conveniently forget that rabbits breed like rabbits and will eat a farmer out of house and home if not “controlled.” I haven’t tried this with other meat, but I’m sure pork and chicken would be delicious and no tiny bones!

  7. Ooh we love this! Well, anything “all ajillo ” works for us 😀 I have pals who won’t eat rabbit but I struggle to understand why as they don’t have them as pets. My granny wasn’t keen, but that was more related to the fact that during the war she said they ate them and she was grateful post war to be able to choose what she ate.

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Tanya – I love anything al ajillo too! Dislike of rabbit is an odd think – I think, perhaps, it’s the meat vegetarians should eat, since it will eat all the vegetables if left to its own devices. I did have rabbits as a child, but don’t feel bad about it. In France many rural people keep rabbits, and pigeon beside their chicken for meat. I can completely understand your granny though, if one kind of food is the only thing readily available it gets a bit much.

  8. Karen says:

    While our markets don’t sell wild meat, I believe I can buy domestically raised rabbit frozen. This sounds like a delicious dish and one we would both enjoy.

  9. Dina says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful recipe. I just made a wild rabbits stew last week and will try this one next time. Do you also have a post on the Iberian rabbit stew with onions?

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