French Style Rabbit Casserole

I am Welsh and was brought up to eat just about anything. My Dad once boiled a whole pig’s head in my Mum’s kitchen when I was a kid to make something called brawn and I also remember trying boiled pig’s trotters on another occasion at home. Mum used to stuff lamb’s hearts with Paxo Stuffing and slow cook in onion gravy which was my Dad’s favourite until my sister and I started dissecting them on our plates, as we were studying Biology A Level at the time! She also made slow cooked rabbit stew on a few occasions and we loved it. We were not in the least bit fazed by trying new foods as kids and I think this has made me an adventurous cook as an adult.

When we visit France I get really excited about food shopping, as the French supermarket is a totally different experience to the UK. They have a deli/market feel about them with so much wonderful fresh produce available and incredible meats and charcuterie on offer.

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On one of my French food shopping trips I enthusiastically chucked a whole jointed rabbit into my “chariot” along with several bottles of wine, giant French garlic bulbs, fresh herbs, butter, mushrooms, courgettes and onions. I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to turn out at that stage but knew I had the basics for a fabulous French casserole in there.

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Whole rabbit is normally sold in France with or without the head. I prefer to buy mine “sans tête” or “without the head” ! The French probably make stock or something with the “tête” but that was getting on for more advanced level French Cookery so I stuck with my headless bunny for the time being.

I picked up quite a few food tips in France and noticed that the French are also not scared to use generous amounts of butter, cream and wine in their cooking.

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This is probably enough to send most dieters running for the hills but the French tend not to pile their plates up like we do in the UK and maybe there is something to be said for “quality over quantity”……and  “a little of what you fancy does you good”. So just cook with plenty of butter and wine when making this recipe, place a moderate portion on your plate and enjoy every single mouthful! One thing is for sure, the French definitely know how to cook and the flavour of this dish is divine!

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I was thinking about this wonderful recipe I cooked in France not so long ago, while I was gazing out of my kitchen window back home in Scotland. Suddenly I spotted my neighbour’s cat legging it down the street and into their back garden with what looked like a furry pet rabbit in it’s mouth. After a lot of frantic texting I managed to get a reply from my neighbour who I had urged to check that kitty had not left a dead offering on their kitchen floor. I was relieved to hear that it was just a fluffy paint roller. Apparently it was the second one it had “captured” and brought in that week! It had been stealing them from the house next door while they had a professional painter in. The poor bloke probably wondered where they were all going!

Back to my recipe…..if you can’t source rabbit, then this casserole will also work with chicken pieces on the bone but rabbit has the most wonderful subtle gamey flavour if you can get it. Sometimes I make this recipe with mushrooms and sometimes with courgettes or both, it’s up to you. Both version are delicious enjoyed with plenty of French crusty bread and French Wine. Enjoy xx

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Ingredients

(Serves 3 to 4)

1 whole jointed fresh rabbit (without the head!)

2 medium onions

2- 3 oz of Butter

1 tablespoon of olive oil

200g of mushrooms

2 medium courgettes

a 400g can of chopped tomatoes

a 500g carton of passata

4 crushed fresh garlic

1 large glass of French Red or White Wine

A tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme

Method

Finely slice 2 medium onions and saute until golden brown in butter and olive oil in a pan on the hob.

Added the whole jointed prepared rabbit including the liver and kidneys which add to the flavour.

Brown the meat in the pan while stirring to ensure nothing burns.

Next add a glass of red or white wine to deglaze the pan. Just use a wooden spoon to scrape all the caramelized bits off the bottom of the pan into the wine and meat juices. This also adds to the delicious flavour.

Chop and add the mushrooms, courgettes, a can of chopped tomatoes, 4 large chopped French garlic cloves, a carton of passata, fresh thyme and give everything a mix to combine.

Bring to the boil then simmer on a low heat for around an hour or longer, stirring regularly. I covered initially then simmered uncovered towards the end to thicken and reduce  the sauce.

Serve with potatoes, or crusty French bread to dunk in and plenty of French Wine.

One rabbit served my husband and I a generous portion each for dinner, still leaving a smaller portion of leftovers each for the following day.

Bon Appetit!

 

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