One of my favourite quotes comes from the Victorian poet and novelist, Charlotte Brontë: "Better to try all things and find all empty, than to try nothing and leave your life a blank." I’ve always tried to live by a similar code, and often make the effort to try something new, just for the experience. I will listen to new genre’s of music, visit new places and am always up for trying new food. Last Saturday as Wham sang ‘Bad Boys’ (Yes I do have Wham on my iPod, sad I know). Anyway as George and Andrew bounced around on the Apple hard drive, I was thinking about food that I’ve not tried.
Now, I have tried many things that most people would balk at. I sampled the foul smelling Durian fruit whilst in Kuala Lumpur, I’ve even digested 100 year eggs in Indonesia, that was an experience I’d rather not repeat. Oh and I did once swallow a fly in Glasgow, that was unintentional. So, thinking back to Ms Brontë’s quote, I recalled that I have never tasted rabbit. It made me wonder if purchasing one would be easy. I remember as a child, every butcher’s shop would have them hanging outside.
So I climb into my car, install IPod into dock, and as Angela McCluskey starts to sing ‘Long Live I’, I drive off in search of that elusive ingredient, a wild rabbit. The first butcher I approach, a squat man with one eyebrow higher than the other, tells me “We have no call for them nowadays, no one eats the beggars anymore.” The second butcher, a willowy young lady, who visibly winces at my request says, “Eww, we don’t do them here love.” I decide to try the local indoor market. My first enquiry solicits the reply, “We can order them for you, I take it you’d want it skinned?” Hurrah! The next stall I reach has them. Three of the skinned beasts lie together, all headless and facing to the left. Now, I was always led to believe that rabbit was a relatively inexpensive meat, but alas no longer. I pay my £4 for one of them and head off home without a single notion of what I’m going to do with it.
Sunday arrives and after consulting many cookery books and browsing online rabbit recipes, I plump for a Sardinian dish, which is simply called, ‘Rabbit and Potatoes’. So a quick trip to the local place of worship; Tesco (there’s more people in there on a Sunday than in church). I purchase required ingredients for the recipe and as Frankie Goes To Hollywood begin pumping that bass line from ‘Relax’, minus big hair and shoulder-pads I stride back to my car with an eighties swagger. Once back in the kitchen, with the remnants of ‘Frankie’ now fading I assemble my ingredients. First for the dish is the rabbit, rosemary (that’s the herb not the rabbits name) and garlic.
‘I Love You To Death’ by the Village People starts to play; I can see it’s going to be one of those days musically. The rabbit gets floured and browned in a pan with the garlic and rosemary, before going into a casserole dish. I deglaze the pan with white wine, scraping all those yummy bits off the bottom ready to stick to the onion that’s now been added. Some carrots are chopped into chunks and with some more wine are added into the pan to simmer away for a few minutes, before being tossed on top of the meat. The lid goes on to the casserole dish and the pot is put inside the oven on 150C for 40 minutes. Time for a glass of something fizzy, a bottle of prosecco pops and my glass is filled as the iPod now plays ‘Hit That Perfect Beat’ by Bronski Beat; it must be gay-day today in Stoke.
I chopped some potatoes; notice quantities have been omitted, I’m going for that bung it all in and see style of cooking today. The potatoes are fried in some olive oil. A good one is preferable, I only use one brand. It’s produced in Abruzzo, and is the most delicious I have come across. Here’s the link to their website. Fonte Monache Once the potatoes have browned it’s time to add them to the pot and with the lid off let the whole thing cook for another 15-20 minutes. Another glass of prosecco later and Marc Almond sings ‘Love To Die For’.
20 minutes later, with the Spice Girls singing, ‘Stop’ – is there no end to these camp delights? The rabbit is ready, and served with a stuffed Portobello mushroom. Now has come, as Bruce Forsyth says on ‘Strictly’ the moment of truth, and I try rabbit for the first time. Now people say it tastes like chicken, but I don’t think it does, mine tastes like rabbit with garlic and rosemary. It’s very nice, a bit fiddly with the small bones to navigate your knife and fork around. But on the whole I liked it. Now all I need to do is find a suitable song to accompany this blog entry, and figure out what will be next on my culinary quest.