Rabbit and Mustard

rabbit and mustard

Rabbit is not an indigenous British species, it’s thought that they were brought here by the Romans or Normans, to farm for meat and fur. Over the last millennium, rabbits have become a real pest – they can have 3 – 12 babies every 2 or 3 months. It’s estimated that the population of rabbits in the the UK alone, is in excess of 40 million.

bunny

Vegetable farmers have to do a considerable amount of shooting and trapping in order to protect their crops (our food). Rabbits are classified as vermin, so there’s no closed hunting season. As rabbit tastes good, it seems to me that we should be eating the wild ones that breed here, rather than importing farmed rabbits that taste inferior (due to their diet of grain). Rabbit meat is far leaner than most other meats – you won’t get fat on it! So when Mr. McGregor hands you a rabbit, do cook it slowly with some fine herbs and spices, instead of feeding it to your dog.

One of the most popular European rabbit recipes is rabbit with mustard (there are many variations throughout the continent). I can’t find any mention of it’s origins, but since the Romans loved eating rabbit and mustard was one of their favorite condiments, the dish must be more than two thousand years old.

Rabbit and Mustard recipe (feeds 2):

1 wild rabbit
3 slices of smoked streaky bacon (chopped)
1 large onion (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
6 heaped teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 heaped teaspoon tarragon (finely chopped)
3 heaped dessertspoons plain four
100ml crème fraîche
2/3 pint game stock (or chicken stock)
1 glass of dry white wine
extra virgin oil olive oil for frying
sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste

tarragon

Finley chop some fresh tarragon, so that you have about a teaspoonful

mustard and tarragon

and mix it with 5 heaped teaspoons of Dijon mustard (hold the sixth spoonful back for later).

smothered

Cut the rabbit up into small pieces (a good butcher will do this for you), pat it dry with some kitchen towel and smother it with the mustard and tarragon mixture. Discard the ribs or use them for stock – there’s not much meat on them. Cover the meat and refrigerate for a few hours (ideally overnight).
If wild rabbit smells too gamey for you, soak it in salted water for 3 hours – the meat  will be tenderised and smell less fragrant. It’s not something I do though and 90 minutes in the oven should make it nice and tender regardless.

fried rabbit

When you are ready to cook, dredge the rabbit pieces in seasoned flour (keep any leftover flour for later in the recipe) and fry in olive oil over a medium heat for about 4 or 5 minuted on either side. Ideally, use a large cast iron casserole for the whole cooking process. When browned, remove all the rabbit to a plate. Don’t overcrowd the frying, it’s best to do it in two or three batches.

onions, bacon and garlic

When the rabbit is done, turn the heat down and fry the chopped onion in the same casserole.  If necessary pour in a little more olive oil.  When the onion goes translucent, stir in the bacon and garlic. Don’t worry about any stuck flour, mustard or juices in the pan, this will become unstuck while cooking the onion. It looks a bit messy, but it will dissolve and add amazing flavour.

crocodiles

When the bacon, onions and garlic have taken a little colour, stir in a tablespoonful of the reserved flour. Pour in a glass of dry white wine (a Burgundy to match the Dijon mustard is good). Mix in half the stock and all the rabbit. Top up the casserole dish, so that the rabbit pieces poke out, just above the surface, like sleeping crocodiles.

braised

Turn the heat up and let the liquid bubble for a minute or two, then cover with the lid and put the cooking pot into a preheated oven at 150º C. Taste the dish half an hour later to check the seasoning. After an hour, stir in 100ml crème fraîche – if the sauce is a bit runny sprinkle on a teaspoon or two of the leftover seasoned flour, when mixed in and heated it will smooth out and thicken things up nicely. Cook for a further 30 minutes in the oven (90 minutes oven cooking time in total).

tarragon garnish

To finish, stir in the remaining teaspoonful of Dijon mustard and a splash of white wine, just before serving. Sprinkle on a little chopped tarragon for decoration. Serve with mashed potato and seasonal vegetables.

I used a Blason Mâcon Villages (Burgundy) in my recipe and enjoyed a glass with my supper. The taste and smell of anise in the tarragon had me drinking a Pastis while I was cooking.

…and finally, I came across a very funny quote from American food writer James Andrew Beard, who said, “I believe that if ever I had to practice cannibalism, I might manage if there were enough tarragon around.”

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About Mad Dog

https://maddogtvdinners.wordpress.com/
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23 Responses to Rabbit and Mustard

  1. Merciful heaven. This sounds SO TASTY! We used to eat a lot of wild rabbit as kids. But never like this – this is great. c

  2. jmcheney says:

    Sounds very delicious. I haven’t had rabbit since we lived in a cabin on a mountainside & our nearest neighbor, a hunter, gave us one now & then. I hope I consulted Julia Child or Edward Harris Heth for great recipes to cook them, but can’t now remember how I did, alas. We were not over run with them in our woods, though our Scotty proudly carried (dangling & dragging as it was almost as big as she) one down the trail home to us one time. She was also death on snakes, swinging them to & fro their bitter ends.

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks – your cabin sounds fantastic – a bit more exciting than going to the farmers’ market on a Sunday morning.
      My parents used to have a big Siamese cat who was a dab hand at catching rabbits, which he’d bring home and plonk on the dining table!

  3. Eha says:

    *smile* Well, Mad, you are certainly doing ‘your bit’ eating a fair amount of rabbit lately – but, why on earth, are you people eating farmed imported rabbit in England? When it obviously could be a fairly cheap form of local protein getting rid of at least some of those millions of pests ? And SO tasty!!! Don’t know from where rabbit with mustard originates but know that this was the first way I ever ate the beastie as a small child in N Europe. It was immensely popular there then . . . Actually rabbit, to the best of my knowledge, is not particularly popular amongst mainstream Australia either: I have to go to the butcher rather than pick it up in most supermarkets . . . . and, for all I know, it may be farmed . . .

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Eha. During WW2 the main source of protein in England was rabbit – everything else was rationed in minute pieces, if there was anything else at all. Subsequently, when rationing was over (in 1954), people were sick to death of bunny! In the following years, rabbit was seen as a cute fluffy pet instead of dinner. Those who were still partial to wild rabbit were put off by a nasty outbreak of myxomatosis. Hence imported French farmed rabbit from a handful of good butchers. Interest in local wild rabbit has been rekindled by farmers’ markets and restaurants cooking forgotten cuts of meat over the last 20 years.

      • Eha says:

        Well, may that trend continue! And escalate. Don’t think bunnies are so widespread as pets here: may be wrong? A few days back watched a recently produced British lifestyle show about the surging popularity of local markets [same here] . . . Yes, and we also had bad myxomatosis locally. Have not heard the word for ages . . . There is so much crying out over lack of reasonably priced food . . .and then this delight is largely allowed to go to waste! *big smile* Rant over !!!!

      • jmcheney says:

        In my war time childhood & right after, Daddy, who hunted brought “squab” home often, & some people ate squirrel, but there was always fear of tularemia with rabbits. So much so that later in the old cabin days, I wondered if I ought to be worried about that when Mr. Hall gave us the occasional rabbit. He ate groundhog, he said, especially during the Depression, but never offered us one of those critters.

        • Mad Dog says:

          I like squab – I find it close to pheasant in taste and I’ve eaten squirrel …and will eat it again – it’s quite similar to rabbit. I’ve even eaten porcupine which is like gamey beef.

  4. That looks incredible, MD. Perfect for the changing weather. I️ didn’t realize that they could reproduce that quickly! Totally agree re local. That mustard sauce looks delicious! Hope you enjoyed!

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Amanda. The constant reproduction is good if people eat them – I’m sure that’s what made them popular originally. They seem to be increasingly popular here – rabbit sells like hot cakes at the market.

  5. MD, what a delicious sounding recipe once again, but unfortunately this will not grace my table – ever😉 Rabbit is not something I can get here and secondly with each rabbit in a pot I will always see my beloved white fluffy friends in my grandfather’s stable only to realise years later that the “bunnies” not only supplied food but also the wonderful fur for my cute little coats with hood and pom-poms and a muff to keep my hands warm☺. But I enjoyed reading your article and recipe.

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Carina – some how the cute black rabbit I had for my sixth birthday didn’t effect me in the same way, but there again she didn’t end up as mittens! I can see your point of view.
      The recipe would work very well with chicken – in general most rabbit or chicken recipes are interchangeable.

  6. Michelle says:

    Love the idea of Mr. McGregor coming over with a rabbit. I adore rabbit. And that looks wonderful.

  7. Ron says:

    Mad – Yet another great rabbit recipe. We also have a similar recipe, Kanin i senapssås. However this recipe and uses dry white wine and fresh thyme. I like the thought of the Burgundy and tarragon. Seeing as rabbit are in abundance here as well, I see your rabbit and mustard recipe being made soon.

  8. Conor Bofin says:

    You know that this is my kind of cooking. Excellent job MD. I need to do something with rabbit. In a stew with pheasant sounds like a plan….

  9. Karen says:

    Your rabbit sounds very flavorful with tarragon and mustard.

  10. A beautiful dish…we can often get rabbit from our butchers in Bexhill and in Spain…well, you know how easy it is! Delicious recipe MD, hope all is well with you. Just back last night from Spain. Drove our car over last week. Big Man is still over there but hopefully he’ll be back in a few weeks with a suitcase full of food goodies!

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Tanya – bienvenido de nuevo. I’m really missing Spain, I haven’t been back since April. I’ve been hoping to do a Spanish rabbit recipe, but they’ve been scarce for two weeks – no shortage of pheasants though!

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