Hot on the heels of my British One Hundred, I wanted to cook something celebrating a favourite listed ingredient and one which I feel is seriously underrated – the rabbit. Why do we not eat them more often? Perhaps it is the cute factor putting people off? (OK, so baby rabbits are unbearably cute but I’m not asking you to eat them).
I’ve often heard people saying they don’t eat rabbit as it has ‘too many bones’. Well you don’t need to worry about that in this recipe, because the meat comes off the bone before it is layered into the lasagne and to be frank, I haven’t found this a problem anyway. The UK countryside is practically overrun with the little furry ones so there is a real need to keep the population down and, practicality aside, they taste bloomin’ fantastic, are lean, nutritious and cheap to boot.The rabbit I picked up today is an absolute monster, massive, humongous. It’s enough to feed a whole family or, to make a big ol’ lasagne.
The butcher also gave me some lamb bones for stock, which is simmering, spluttering and plop-plopping away on the stove as I write this post, the delicious scent wafting through every room and most likely out towards the neighbouring flats too. There is something deeply satisfying about making stock, it couldn’t be easier to chuck everything into a pot, cover with water and simmer and yet you are left with the most amazing base for so many dinners, soups, risottos, gravies etc. I like to roast the bones and vegetables before adding them to the pot as it gives a deeper, richer flavour but this is not necessary if you don’t have time.
I used some of this stock in the lasagne (use whatever you have available), which I combined with a good splash of white wine. The final rabbit sauce also gets a good hit of (amongst others) tomato, thyme and mushrooms (see below for note) – rich and deeply comforting. Each pasta layer is then cloaked in a dreamy sage-scented bechamel. Roll on autumn, I’m ready!
[We ate the lasagne with some salad leaves from our balcony and some finely sliced fennel in a lemon-olive oil mix, which cuts through the richness of the lasagne]
1 large rabbit, jointed
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
100 ml white wine
1 generous sprig thyme
1 litre stock
2 bay leaves
1 generously heaped tablespoon tomato purée
1 small bunch parsley leaves, chopped
200g mushrooms, cut into chunks (I could only find oyster mushrooms and their flavour was a bit lost in this lasagne. I suggest using a more strongly flavoured fungus in your lasagne)
6 ripe tomatoes, de-seeded (and skinned if you like) and roughly chopped
For the sauce
Parmesan, grated (a good handful, or to taste)
2 tablespoons chopped sage
salt and pepper
Cheddar cheese, for grating
- Preheat the oven to 200C/400F
- Heat some oil in a pan – 3-4 tablespoons (I like to use a roasting tray which I put directly onto the stove top and then transfer to the oven later). Add the rabbit pieces and cook on a high heat until browned on all sides. Remove the rabbit pieces and set aside.
- Add the onions, garlic to the pan and fry for a couple of minutes, stirring.
- Add the wine, tomatoes, bay leaves and thyme, cook for a minute, then add back the rabbit pieces. Add the stock, cover with foil and cook for 30 minutes, remove from the oven and set the rabbit pieces aside.
- Remove the thyme and bay leaves form the pan, then reduce until thickened by approximately half. During this time, shred the rabbit meat from the bones, then add back to the sauce along with the mushrooms and parsley.
For the bechamel
- Bring the milk to almost boiling then set aside.
- Melt the butter in a pan, then add the flour and stir vigorously to form a roux. Add a little of the milk at a time until all the milk is incorporated, stirring constantly.
- Add the parmesan and stir to combine before adding the sage and seasoning.
- Turn the oven to 180C/350F
- Rabbit mixture, lasagne sheets, bechamel, rabbit mixture, lasagne, bechamel etc. Grated cheese on top. Bake for 30-40 minutes.
Meat Stock Recipe
4 medium meat bones
1 stick celery, in quarters
1 onion, halved
2 juniper berries
2 bay leaves
- Roast the bones and vegetables for 30-40 minutes in a 230C/450F oven.
- Remove and add to a stock pot along with 3 litres water, bring to the boil then simmer for 1.5-2 hours, removing the scum every now and then. Drain through a sieve. Cool and freeze until needed. It will keep for a month or so.