I need to begin by explaining myself. After my somewhat enthusiastic snail blog post, I came down with a cold (if you remember, it was that week where it went from warm weather to arctic conditions). After the snails had eaten their carrot and left bright orange shit all over their container, I had one look a them and decided they were better off ruining someone’s Hostas than in my kitchen.
Then, the following weekend, I totally lost my appetite at a very hot Badminton after gambling with death and having English sparkling for breakfast and a dodgy duck wrap for lunch. When I decided food and I were friends again, around Tuesday, I started to think about how I’m so much happier when I eat unprocessed food, anything from the garden really. Happier both mentally and in terms of digestive health, they’re all connected.
You may have see my previous blog post moaning about supermarkets, Tuesday’s often lend themselves to my rants. I also went off on one a while ago about people and plastic, it was a favourite tirade, you can read it here. I also bitch about my old lodger George leaving red in the fridge in the mentioned account, I have since educated myself and I take it all back. (Read about wine in the fridge here)
Anyway, what I usually end up coming back to is how I hate people interfering with nature, how meat is only bad because there are too many people thus too many animals, too much plastic because there is too much packaging but it always comes back to there being too many people who just don’t care. They don’t care at all. And so, with all this chat from me about being self-sufficient and cutting down on waste, food miles, negativity, I thought I’d shoot myself a rabbit on Friday and make a pie, just like in the song Run Rabbit Run.
We don’t actually eat a lot of rabbit normally, we have an unusually large population of scavengers at the farm in the form of Red Kites and Buzzards and it seems unfair to take away from their larder. The last time we shot a brace was in 2013 so I felt we’d given them plenty of time to do what bunnies do best and maintain their numbers.
After messaging Dad saying it was vital I shot a bunny on Thursday evening, he clambered into the Defender with the 22 and we set off round the farm. I have to say, I was extremely optimistic and went into full hunting mode, excited with a touch of the blue funk. We started off in the quarry with target practise; a stone balanced on top of a plank of wood. There was a very worrying moment when two horse riders appeared out of absolutely no where, our farm is totally private so it was bizarre that they’d seemingly ridden up our drive and into our fields.
Howbiet, once the coast was clear we set off at snail pace in search of an unsuspecting flopsy. It didn’t take long, I excitedly pointed at a white tail bobbing off along the hedge line and slowly came to a stand still. Defenders are actually great for this, I used the mirror as a gun rest and the bunny died instantly. Admittedly I didn’t think it was dead and Dad made me touch it’s eyeball to prove the twitching was just nerves and fleas.
First Tip: Hold the bunny up and squeeze out any remaining piss so you don’t get it all over yourself/the car when you’ve shot it.
We got back to the house and Dad set off to find a sharp knife and what felt like a blunt cleaver. To skin a rabbit, you simply make an incision over their stomach area, being careful to only pierce the skin and nothing else. Then you get your thumbs in there and separate the skin from the muscles and things. Once you’re happy it’s no longer attached, use the knife to slice the skin off around the entire belly and over the back, so you’re left with a rabbit with a top and some bottoms on.
Then you need to chop the feet off and pull the top off over it’s head and the bottoms over it’s lower half. You usually need to make an incision in the tail to get the bottoms off, then take the tail off completely. Then you chop the head off with the cleaver and make an incision in the middle (ish) and get your hand in there to pull out all the guts, you have to be quite thorough and make sure you part the rib cage and get all of the lungs out. Make sure you get the colon out of the back as well, you might have to make a small incision to get it out without bursting it. Next, wash the rabbit thoroughly inside and out before taking it inside.
It’s up to you which meat to use, I wanted to use everything so I used the cleaver to chop down the middle of the ribs then across the back, this is what I was left with:
Isn’t that a huge amount of meat to come from one rabbit! So impressive. I covered it in salt and water and left it in the fridge overnight to get rid of any scummy bits. I was a bit nervous about cooking it, I asked a couple of people for advice but it seems not many people cook with rabbit. So I went for a trusty Delia recipe: Old English Rabbit Pie.
It was really easy to follow, you just have to make sure you cook the rabbit really slowly (thanks Rosie at Stamford Kitchen for that tip) and you can’t go wrong really. I’d never made pastry before, it’s really easy isn’t it? I was so happy with how they turned out, absolutely delicious and with the carrots and peas, a wholesome meal. The best bit? I felt fantastic afterwards.
No post is complete without a mention of wine. I popped to Adnams in Stamford where I asked the lovely Tom for a little advice (after nearly buying a Pouilly-Fumé.) He suggested something a little less elegant and with more impact, ‘Rabbit is packed with flavour so you need something to reflect that.’ I ended up with a bottle of Il Gruccione Lugana, partly because I liked the way Tom said Lugana and partly because he made it sound wonderful. It cut through perfectly, quite a tangy white wine but really smooth at the same time, peachy and a satisfying finish.
Thanks to my sister, Harriet Fenn, for the fantastic pastry artwork.