A Bun in the Oven – Rabbit with Plums and Port

Michaelmas Daisies, Michaelmas Goose.  Michaelmas Fairs.   Today, 29th September is St Michaels Day or Michaelmas!  Traditionally in the rural calendar this was an important “Quarter Day”.  The day which signified the beginning of Autumn,  when the harvests were supposed to have been all brought in, rents paid and land bought and sold.   Things are a bit different nowadays of course.  Autumn is starting to make its presence felt with fiery reds beginning to light up the countryside and the nights drawing in.   In my garden the michaelmas daisies are in full bloom and pears, apples, quinces, blackberries and plums are all at their best.

Hyssop

As a result of all this bounty, the rabbits and pigeons have  grown plump eating the windfalls and hedgerow berries as well as anything left unprotected in the vegetable garden – with cabbages and lettuces being particular favourites! It’s a perfect time to take advantage of this plumpness and get your own back by eating them.  Sorry if I sound a bit like Mr McGregor here always chasing after Peter Rabbit to put in a pie and obsessed with protecting my plants!

Rabbit with plums

I know that eating rabbit has fallen out of favour nowadays (perhaps because it was seen as a “poor mans food”) but there is a lot to be said for it – particularly wild rabbit – but wild or farmed, rabbit is a healthy,  white lean meat with less fat than chicken and it’s at its best in September and October.

You can often get rabbit from your butcher who will joint it for you.  A rabbit serves 3-4 people.  It is often cooked with mustard but I am particularly fond of it as detailed here with plums, port and hyssop.  Cooked this way it’s like all the flavours and smells of an Autumn day rolled into one dish. If you are not familiar with it, hyssop is a herb that tastes like a combination of sage and mint and if you can’t get hold of it then use equal quantities of these as a good alternative.  Hyssop goes particularly well with rabbit and is worth growing if you have the space.

This recipe is an easy one to put together.  You brown the rabbit and put it on top of the onion, garlic, plums, hyssop and port and let in slowly simmer in the oven for a couple of hours or so until the rabbit is incredibly tender.  You can make the dish up to this point the day before if easier and reheat to serve continuing from step 12 on the day.   I like this served with mashed or new potatoes and a green vegetable.

If you’ve never really tried rabbit, try this recipe and earn your country credential plus, I think, a really nice surprise at how delicious rabbit is.

Ingredients (serves 3-4)

  • 1 rabbit (approx 1.3kg), jointed into 6
  • 2tbsp plain flour
  • 3tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, grated
  • 2tsp hyssop or 1tsp mint + 1tsp sage, finely chopped
  • 400g plums, halved and pitted (any type)
  • 150ml port
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • salt and pepper
  • chopped parsley

Method

  1. Heat oven to 175c
  2. Wash the rabbit joints and dry on kitchen paper
  3. Put flour, alt and pepper in a large bag and add rabbit joints, coating them all over
  4. Place casserole over a medium heat and add oil
  5. When oil is hot, add half of the rabbit pieces (shaking off excess flour) and fry until brown
  6. Remove to a plate to keep warm and repeat with remaining pieces
  7. Add a little extra oil if necessary, and fry the onion for 5 minutes until soft.
  8. Put garlic, plums and hyssop in pan with onion and stir till well mixed.
  9. Place the rabbit pieces on top of the mix and pour over the port.
  10. Cover the rabbit with parchment paper and the put on casserole lid
  11. Cook for 2 to 2.5 hours in oven until rabbit is soft
  12. Remove rabbit to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm whilst you put sauce over a high heat to reduce.
  13. Taste and add sugar and more salt and pepper if necessary
  14. Return rabbit pieces to casserole and take off heat.
  15. Scatter over parsley leaves just before serving.

 

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