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Friday, 19 December 2014

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Are you game for this dish?

THIS week we bring you a classic Italian dish using rabbit.

We are lucky in that we have a few hunter gatherer type friends who get hold of rabbits for us to use at home and it seems that even they are always looking for interesting ways in which to cook it.

Here we bring you our rabbit cacciatore – appropriately enough, ‘cacciatore’ means hunter in Italian, apparently.

If you are not supplied by kind country folk then you can easily substitute chicken instead of the rabbit, with no harm coming to the dish.

Serves four.

1 kg rabbit pieces or use the equivalent amount of chicken pieces

Salt and pepper

8 bay leaves, preferably fresh

A few sprigs of fresh thyme

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

half a bottle of red wine – it is worth mentioning here that we are not the sort of people who waste expensive wine in cooking. Some people insist upon using Italian wine for this dish, we use whatever is at hand.

Flour, for dusting

Olive oil

2 onions, chopped

A handful of pitted green or black olives

2 x 400g tins plum tomatoes

1 chicken stock cube

Season the rabbit/chicken pieces with salt and pepper and put them into a bowl.

Add the bay leaves, thyme sprigs and one of the crushed cloves of garlic. Cover the meat with the wine.

Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to marinate for at least an hour, but preferably overnight in the fridge.

Preheat your oven to 180C.

Take the meat pieces out of the marinade (reserving the marinade) and pat dry with kitchen paper.

Dust the meat pieces with flour and shake off any excess.

Heat an ovenproof pan or deep heavy-bottomed roasting tray on the stove top. Add a splash of olive oil and fry off the meat until lightly browned all over.

Remove the meat from the pan and set aside for now.

Add the other two cloves of garlic and the chopped onions to the pan; you may need to add a touch more oil if you think necessary.

Fry the garlic and onion gently until golden brown.

Add the olives, tomatoes (if the tomatoes are whole, bash them up a bit with a spoon) and the browned meat pieces along with their reserved marinade.

Pop in the stock cube and add a little more seasoning.

Bring the mixture to the boil on the stove top. Once that’s done, remove from the heat, cover with a lid or a double thickness layer of foil and transfer the pan to the preheated oven.

Bake for one to one-and-a-half hours until the meat is very tender and falling away from the bone.

You can fish out the bay and thyme before serving but we don’t bother if it’s just us.

If you find the dish a little oily once cooked then just skim any excess fat from the top before serving.

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