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Slow-cooked rabbit, sausage and bean casserole

PUBLISHED: 16:44 27 April 2017 | UPDATED: 16:44 27 April 2017

one for the pot

one for the pot

Archant

This rich, slow cooked rabbit dish from Laura Paton is not just absolutely delicious, it is also cheap and easy to make (no shortage of rabbits, that’s for sure!)

one for the potone for the pot

Food is never far from our thoughts here at Sporting Shooter. If we’re not discussing what we’ve eaten then we’re usually thinking about what we’re going to eat, and, as you can imagine, we get particularly excited to hear about the latest game dish someone has discovered – whether it’s a new recipe for pheasant to try at home, or a venison dish eaten at a small, rustic restaurant during a once-in-a-lifetime hunting trip.

In light of our illustrious editor’s ‘First words’ last month, encouraging you, the reader, to talk more about shooting and not to shy away from the topic when around others, I started thinking about game cookery and how important it is to extol the virtues of eating game. Food is something we can all connect with on some level. We might not all be gourmands, but we all need fuel, so perhaps sharing our game cooking exploits could be just as valuable as talking about the sport we love in tackling the negativity it is sometimes met with.

So with this is mind, I was surprised and pleased to hear Davina McCall asking the question: “Why don’t we eat more rabbit in Britain?” during an episode of the BBC’s Saturday Kitchen in mid January. She was putting the question to chef Michel Roux Jr as he prepared her ‘food heaven’, as per Grandma Roux’s recipe – a one-pot dish of rabbit with Dijon mustard, onions, fennel, bacon, pastis and lemon. Earlier in the show, Davina had given her reason for choosing rabbit as “not enough people know how to cook it, or they’re nervous about cooking it, or they have a fluffy bunny in mind.”

Having already decided to write a recipe using rabbit for this month’s issue, and it being my first foray into preparing and cooking rabbit, I was encouraged to see Michel making quick work of jointing the rabbit and whipping up a dish that looked both appetising and very simple.

Rabbits may be feverish at this time of year, but the temperature certainly isn’t, so it’s always comforting to know there’s a hot meal waiting for you when you get home after a long day, or night, out in the cold. Similar to the humble cassoulet – possibly the ultimate one-pot meal – this is a simple but gutsy stew. Full of big, bold flavours, it requires very little preparation before going in the oven to slow-cook, to ensure the meat is tender enough to fall temptingly off the bone.

Rabbit is possibly the most difficult game meat to encourage non game eaters to try, as it has been anthropomorphized into the very fabric of our culture – from art to books to films to music. But don’t be afraid to talk about enjoying our most abundant game meat. Even if you convince just one person to try this, as Michel himself put it, “lean, nutritious, delicious” meat, then you will have done our sport a service. Maybe you could tell them about a wonderful wild rabbit, sausage and bean stew you cooked last night? Here’s to shouting about game – bon appétit!

Slow-cooked rabbit, sausage and bean casserole

Serves 4-6

Preparation and cooking time: 2 hours

Ingredients

✦ olive oil

✦ 2 whole rabbits, skinned and jointed

✦ 300g chipolata sausages

✦ 4 rashers smoked streaky bacon, chopped

✦ 2 medium onions, chopped

✦ 2 garlic cloves, chopped

✦ 2 x 400g tins of good-quality chopped tomatoes

✦ 1 x 400g tin of haricot beans, drained and rinsed

✦ 1 x 400g tin of butter beans, drained and rinsed

✦ 250ml hot stock

✦ 3 bay leaves

✦ a few sprigs of rosemary, leaves picked

✦ ½ small bunch of sage, leaves picked

✦ salt and pepper

For the crust:

✦ 40g crisp white breadcrumbs

✦ 4 tbsp grated parmesan

To serve:

✦ crusty bread

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

2. Heat a little olive oil in a deep ovenproof pan over a medium heat. Add the rabbit pieces and cook until lightly golden on all sides. Remove and set aside.

3. Add the sausages and bacon to the pan. Once browned, reduce the heat to low.

4. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes or until starting to soften. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.

5. Tip in the tomatoes, beans, stock and herbs. Return the meat to the pan, season with salt and pepper and bring to the boil.

6. Cover and transfer to the oven. Bake for approx. 1 hour – the mixture should be luscious and thick and the meat should be coming away from the bone.

7. Mix the breadcrumbs and parmesan and scatter over the casserole. Continue to cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until the crust is golden and crisp.

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