Drowned rabbit

Rabbits have never been something to make the mouth water, but they are cheap, readily available, and have a firm place in Australian folklore. For all those reasons, rabbit is something you should have at the table several times a year. There’s another reason jfor that: the longer you cook rabbit, the better you cook it. Don’t ask me why; perhaps it’s the subtle flavour which needs a bit of added personality. Perhaps it’s like all slow cooked dishes. The more you cook this way, the more you get to know about happy partners, about timing, about ideal presentation.

Don’t be put off by the wildness of the rabbit. Despite the fact they hop about in the wild, they have none of that tongue-biting gamey taste, and they are the dickens to cook to tenderness. Even the loin is prone to dryness, no matter how gently you cook it. It has nothing at all in common with its much larger partner in the wild, the rich red hare.

You can try all sorts of marinades for the loin, you can wrap it

in bacon fat, baste it, but it always seems to be on the edge of dryness. Never the melting tenderness of the loin of lamb or veal. These hoppers just don’t have enough fat running through them, which, ironically, is a good reason for getting to know them better.

Usually I am into letting flavours speak for themselves, but with rabbit those flavours are so subtle you wouldn’t hear them. But this makes them ideal candidates for slow cooking, and that’s pretty much always been the way. I have vague memories of rabbit in milk, rabbit in a simple stock laced with carrots and potatoes. More recently, I have enjoyed rabbit cooked slowly, then shredded with bacon and served with tomatoes, olives and herbs.

2 rabbits, the lungs, kidneys and liver removed — Chop the rabbit into 5 segments: 2 front legs, saddle, 2 back legs. If you’re into the richness of offal, you can make a tiny entree with noodles or rice. Pan-fry the kidneys and liver briefly with a little garlic and toss with buttered noodles/rice and fresh herbs.

20 Roma tomatoes, skinned; or

500g tin of tomatoes, no added sugar, no added salt — Whichever you use, put them through the whizzer.

2 large carrots, sliced

2 large parsnips, sliced

2 hot chillies, sliced finely

2 cloves garlic, peeled, sliced finely


fresh herbs: rosemary, thyme, or basil

black pepper

1 eggplant, sliced into circles

juice of 1 lemon


Brown the rabbit pieces all over in a little oil, removing each from the pan as you go, to ensure consistent browning all over.


Return all the rabbit pieces to a heavy-based pot and cover with the tomatoes, carrots, parsnips, chillies and garlic. The rabbit must be covered. If not, add a little water. Season with a couple of teaspoons of salt.


Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, and cook gently on a low heat for about 20 minutes, keeping your eye on the pot to make sure the rabbit is covered, and there is no chance of burning on the bottom. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.


Put the pot in the oven, and cook for another hour, removing the saddle after 45 minutes. The stock should have thickened and the rabbit should come easily from the bone. Add the herbs. The dish is best prepared several hours in advance and allowed to cool, so the flavours can be drawn out and come together.


Re-heat the rabbit gently in its sauce.


Put the eggplant slices, separated, on a flat, round plate. Cover with wrap and cook in the microwave for about 3 minutes until tender. Sprinkle with lemon juice and a touch of salt.


Place several eggplant slices on each plate, pour some tomato sauce and sprinkle some pepper over the slices. Serve the rabbit on top, surrounded by the vegetables from the pot.


If there are any leftovers, remove the meat from the bones, taking care of any tiny bones. Mix through the sauce and heat through gently. Serve with pasta, olives and herbs.

WINE: I remember last Christmas having a bunny that Jacques Reymond cooked and a glass of Mildara 1988 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon. I can still remember the flavour of both. A good ‘juicy’ year from Coonawarra, like 1988 or 1986, is the go here.