This is a simple Spanish rabbit recipe, with the ingredients kept to a minimum – probably what’s local and to hand. The flavour goes a long way to proving the old adage, that less is more!
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. Vegetable farmers have to do a considerable amount of shooting and trapping in order to protect their crops (our food). It’s all very well for rabbit lovers and vegetarians to protest, but countries like Australia have biblical plagues of rabbits, which, like locusts, eat everything in their path. I’m not suggesting eliminating rabbits, but we should be eating them instead of factory farmed chicken. Wild rabbits get culled regardless. In New Zealand they are planning to eliminate rabbit completely with a disease. To be fair to New Zealanders, the rabbit is not a native species and it probably outnumbers the 4.5 million human population by at least ten to one. Apparently 7 – 10 rabbits consume the same amount of vegetation as a ewe in a single day (though sheep arrived by boat, with the British, too!). But I digress, so on with the recipe…
Conejo al Vino recipe (serves 2 – 3 people)
1 wild rabbit (jointed)
3 slices smoked streaky bacon (chopped) or a little Spanish jamón serrano
1 large onion (chopped)
a whole head of garlic (finely chopped)
500ml dry white wine
a splash red wine vinegar
rabbit blood (optional)
a few sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
2 heaped dessertspoons of plain flour
1 teaspoon of rosemary, sage and thyme (a few sprigs of each), juniper berries, coarse sea salt and black peppercorns ground in a mortar and pestle
sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil for cooking
Save the blood to thicken the sauce later on (pour a little red wine vinegar into it to stop it coagulating).
Cut the rabbit up into about 6 pieces. Dredge the meat in seasoned flour (I mix in a teaspoon of ground herbs and juniper berries) and brown lightly (in batches, don’t overcrowd the pan) in extra virgin olive oil. When the rabbit has a little colour remove it to a plate. Do include the heart, liver and kidneys for flavour – if they are not your thing, you can remove them before serving.
Using the same cast iron casserole and oil, fry the onion with the bacon. When the onion goes translucent, stir in the garlic. After a few minutes, sprinkle on any leftover flour and mix to form a roux.
Pour in the wine and a splash of red wine vinegar. Return the rabbit to the pot, along with a few sprigs of thyme and 2 bay leaves. Bring the liquid to a simmer and allow it to bubble away for a few minutes to burn off the alcohol, before putting the lid on and removing the casserole to a preheated oven at 150ºC. Cook for about an hour and turn the rabbit about half way through.
After 60 minutes, taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Stir in the blood to thicken the sauce.
Return the casserole to the oven for a final 10 to 15 minutes with the lid off. The rabbit is done when it feels tender to a fork. Serve with mashed potato and seasonal vegetables. I recommend dry white wine as an accompaniment, or better still, cava!
As with all game, mind your teeth – watch out for lead shot and pellets.
Juniper berries! So cool.
Thanks Rosemary – they are very good with game and of course, gin!
Oh Mad! Since I have spent most of my life in Australia you have brought up one of the biggest ecological issues of this country! Some 24 sweet bunnies brought in by Thomas Austin with the First Fleet became 10 billion pests in their heyday and we are still battling! Love the healthy, tasty bunny and shall copy your recipe faithfully! But hate the way bunnies are farmed in this country: my purchase will give freedom for more to be grown in inhumane conditions! Wild ones: since they are so easily grown, there is so far little enthusiasm to market the wild ones . . . and they may carry a number of serious diseases on their backs . . . . my ‘moral’ problem: shall talk to my very wise butcher . . .but shall copy!
I know …and then there’s the cane toad! Introducing animals to other continents where they’ve got no natural predators is an extremely bad idea.
There’s nothing wrong with a farmed rabbit, as long as it has been well looked after. Sadly in Europe the farming of rabbits is very poorly regulated and they are treated far worse than battery hens. I prefer the wild ones here, because I know they’ve had a real life, eaten good food and had a quick death. Mine come from farmers who cull them to protect their vegetables (and in turn, my vegetables). If you trust your butcher, you’ll be OK.
Thank you Mad! MAY I SUGGEST that each reader of this post does click onto the European link he has given. It truly is NOT that we don’t absolutely love a very tasty, healthy bunny recipe but there is a ‘background’ each and every one of us meat-eaters should know! (Hate to tell you yours are almost worse than what Mr Google has shown me !!!) . . . . whole head of garlic – yes! rabbit blood: if I can buy flopsy-mopsy with it – yes! Sleep well !!!
You’re lucky, Mad, you can get yours wild from farmers & you are certainly cooking them properly & safely. The last rabbits I cooked & ate were given to me years ago by an old timer down below us on our North Carolina mountain, who shot them when he caught them dining in his garden (à la Mr. McGregor). He had cleaned them & he told me his way to cook them – fried – & I think I did sautée them floured in wine, olive oil & butter. I’m sure I consulted my appropriate cookbooks. And they were always delicious. In childhood during the war when we ate Daddy’s squab, he never brought us rabbit. He said he feared tularemia, which may have been prevalent when he was a farm boy in Kentucky & Mississippi. My old neighbor on the mountain said there had never been tularemia in our parts. So like Alfred E. Newman, I did not worry, & properly prepared our gift rabbit feasts whenever offered. Your recipe sounds divine. Alas, I’m not aware of any rabbit sources here these days. I agree with you, we ought to eat such wild meat when available under the right circumstances instead of factory chicken raised in horrible inhumane conditions.
Thanks Judith – I think we’ve got the same recipe, or very similar. Fortunately, tularemia has never been reported in Britain. I do hope you come across a new Mr. McGregor with a similar bounty soon.
Lmao. We know the conejo was fresh. As I always say, this is how I like to eat. And I like your idea of killing a natural nuisance rather than participating in factory farming of chicken, which doesn’t taste as good anyway. Of course you added the sangre as thickener. This looks so rich and flavorful. Well done as always. And yes re cava and juniper berries.
Thanks Amanda! The great irony here, is that rabbits were introduced to Britain, Australia and New Zealand as a food source, but changing tastes and supermarkets have turned it into a pest.
Rabbits! I’m with you Mad, I like mine wild. However, when they are not to be found here, our local “free range” rabbit producer is a good option. When we begin to thaw a bit and his ladies (rabbits) begin to cooperate, we’ll surely try this recipe. I love the use of the juniper berry, they’re so good with wild game.
Thanks Ron – having free range rabbit to hand is perfect. I’d have no objection to eating those.
Divine! I love rabbit – especially ones from the hills behind my pa’s place
Thanks Cecilia – I bet Boo likes them too!
Boo LOVES them!!
Oh yes, we love conejo too (and I’m guessing you know it can also be a rather rude word in Spanish in the same way as Mrs Slocombe used to refer to her “pussy”…I’m hoping you remember the programme!). Anyway, I digress, fabulous recipe. We can often buy wild rabbit in the butcher’s here and in Spain (where we’re headed next week for a couple of months) our lovely neighbours keep us supplied! Hope you’re well 😀 un saludo, let me know if I can bring anything back for you.
ROFL – thanks Tanya! I was asking the Portuguese chef just the other week if they had a similar expression to, “de puta madre.”
I’m heading for Spain in the morning – or possibly the Independent Catalan Republic – we will see…
I really appreciate your offer, it’s very kind. It’s the perfect time of year for a visit too!
Have a great trip to la republica!
Your rabbit sounds savory and delicious.
Thanks Karen – I did marinated rabbit on the barbecue yesterday and it turned out to be fantastically tender.