This month, The Cook Book Guru is featuring The Book of Household Management by Mrs Isabella Beeton. Mrs Beeton’s book was first published in 1861.
It is not a book I would normally be clambering to cook from but, as it was being featured this month, I decided to give it a go. If anyone is interested: a full PDF copy of the book can be found at exclassics.com. Here is the first volume, here is the second and here is the third.
Clearly, rabbit was popular in 1861. There are piles of rabbit recipes and, as rabbit is one of my all-time favourite meats, that is where I headed. I settled on Stewed Rabbit, Larded – though, I must admit, I didn’t lard the rabbit. I had the right intention. I went to the study and found my bodkin, thinking it may work but then had second thoughts. I decided I was being silly – frying the rabbit in the bacon fat would be nearly as good and much less effort than threading bacon through the rabbit.
My verdict? Bloody fantastic!! We both loved it. I still have a smile on my face. You just have to try it.
It is very similar to the braised rabbit my mum used to make, although my mum never larded the meat nor did she include a glass of sherry – more’s the pity.
First up is the recipe as published and, then, what I did.
a few strips of bacon
rather more than 1 pint of good broth or stock
a bunch of savoury herbs
salt and pepper to taste
thickening of butter and flour
1 glass of sherry.
Well wash the rabbit, cut it into quarters, lard them with Blips of bacon, and fry them; then put them into a stewpan with the broth, herbs, and a seasoning of pepper and salt; simmer gently until the rabbit is tender, then strain the gravy, thicken it with butter and flour, add the sherry, give one boil, pour it over the rabbit, and serve.
Here is what I did:
Joint the rabbit into 6 pieces, the hind legs, the front legs and the saddles.
Chop four rashers of bacon into one cm cubes.
Add a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil to a casserole dish and fry the bacon until crispy. Remove from the dish and set aside.
Brown each piece of rabbit in the same pan then set aside.
Pour off the oil and wipe out the dish but do not wash it.
Pour 500 mils of chicken stock* into the pan.
Deglaze the pan with the stock over a medium heat.
Reduce the heat to very low and return the rabbit and the bacon to the pan.
Add a bouquet of herbs. (I am in Perth and I could not believe we didn’t bring any herbs back with us. We have about 20 thriving parsley plants and I had to buy a bunch of parsley. 😦 I found some bay leaves in the freezer and Maus picked a bit of rosemary from one of our neighbour’s plants.) Some thyme would have been great.
Gently simmer the rabbit until cooked through and tender.
- Remove the rabbit and the herbs from the pan.
Clearly, you were supposed to make a roux now but I figured that was a bit too indulgent. I mixed 2 tablespoons of cornflour with a little of the sauce and then slowly incorporated it into the sauce. Increase the heat and stir until the sauce boils and thickens.
- Add 200mils of sweet sherry and season with pepper and salt.
- Return rabbit to the pan and gently simmer whilst you are getting your vegetables ready.
- Serve with vegetables and the sauce drizzled over the rabbit.
* This recipe is all about a quality stock. Don’t be tempted to buy chicken stock or use a stock cube. It just ain’t the same. Remember, according to Choice Magazine, most chicken stock sold in tetra containers is just reconstituted stock cubes.
Chicken stock takes no time to make. I decided on this recipe and whizzed down to our local butcher for a rabbit and some chicken frames whilst Maus whizzed off for a stick of celery and a carrot. The chicken frames, the rabbit’s neck and a chicken backbone I had in the freezer went into a pot. I added a roughly chopped leek, the carrot and the celery stick. In went a few stems of parsley, a few bay leaves, a stick of rosemary and some peppercorns and the pot simmered for 3 hours.
When ready, strain off all the solids and strain the resultant stock through a fine sieve. Taste the stock and add salt to taste.
I took out 500 mils and put the rest in the fridge. Tomorrow, I will skim off any fat that has formed on the top and freeze the stock in 500 mil containers. All up, making the stock would have taken less than 10 minutes.
Postscript: I have just stored the chicken stock. I now have 6 x 500mil containers in the freezer.
I put back a Mrs Beeton’s cookbook (and several others – so difficult to choose) at a garage sale last weekend… you would not believe the amount of cookbooks that were there. I lost count at 5 bookcases. One of the sellers is a food stylist… the other a fancy upholsterer-weaver. They are moving, and have had several openings-offerings. I bought Elizabeth David’s An Omelette and a Glass of Wine instead. Maybe they will be open again next weekend, and Mrs Beeton still there. On Sunday I made chicken stock for the first time, from the roast bits & bones. I remember [wild] rabbit stew made by my grandmother when I was very young – it was delicious 🙂
Oh Ella, go back and get it. It is a classic, I am sure you will be glad to own, if only to have a chuckle over. My mum used to make braised rabbit, which is essentially the same. I used to love it as a kid and I still love it.
Rabbit has always been a big favorite in my family in the Fall. Yours would be heartily accepted and the platter cleared in a snap. Very, good, Glenda. In some ways, it reminds me of my family’s methods. One of these Falls, I’ll post the recipe. One of these Falls. 🙂
Oh John, please do. I will make it in a flash. I bought another rabbit today and I am always looking for new ways to prepare them.
Yum Glenda, please come and help yourselves to herbs from our garden when you are in Perth. We have small pots of herbs here and there and you are always welcome xx Sharmila
Hi Sharmila. Thanks so much. I can’t believe we were so stupid as to come back to Perth empty handed.
Love rabbit stews – great for the colder weather. I agree – the sherry is a must!
Hi Debi, I don’t know what my mum was thinking leaving it out.
We ate a lot of rabbit (shot by my father) when I was a child in the UK. My mother used to make a lovely rabbit and bacon pie.
Sorry to hear you ran out of herbs – I live in Perth and have some in my garden you could have had with pleasure!
Thanks for the lovely thought. Herbs are such a rip off to buy. My dad also shot rabbits when I was a kid. I was brought up eating rabbit. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
Wonderful, I love rabbit, but if someone else cooks it. It’s one of those childhood dishes for me I just don’t seem to be able to cook well. Maybe I should follow your lead and try again, soon. I have just made a pot of real chicken stock today, nothing in a tetra pack or cube ever tasted like chicken to me. Sadly overuse of artificial flavourings has the tendency to distort flavour expectations. I’ll stop there before I pull the soapbox out!
Sandra, when it comes to processed food – pull out the soap box. I am listening. You should try rabbit again. When we were kids, the rabbits were wild, today they are all farmed. It is a totally different beast. I can remember mum soaking the rabbits in salted water. There is none of that these days.
Maybe I should seek out this book if it has lots of rabbit recipes. I make something similar but will try this recipe when we start catching rabbits again. It might be worth making the roux; sometimes I do with my recipe and sometimes not, but the roux certainly makes a slightly richer gravy.
Anne, I was thinking of you when I made this recipe. I think you would love the book. Why don’t you join in and help me convince the doubting Thomases that rabbit is fab. It is no big burden just make at least one recipe out of the feature book. If you don’t have the book you can always find a recipe online.
You’re quick off the block there Glenda! I have to admit I am a little bit (i.e. a lot) squeamish when it comes to eating rabbit but that doesn’t detract from the pure joy of reading the original recipe (give one boil – love it) and then reading that you made your own stock.
You’re right, good stock is hard to beat and so easy – I always look at the ingredients at those carton stocks and walk away really fast.
BTW – I’m subscribed to get your posts and haven’t received any for a few weeks. Can you check to see if I’ve been dropped?
Hi Nancy, you are still on the list so I don’t know why you are not getting them. Subscribe again and see what happens. I don’t want you missing out. I was horrified to read that stock in the tetra packs was just reconstituted stock cubes. They add water to make people think it is the real thing and to charge much more than what they can charge for stock cubes. I am so over processed food.
Reblogged this on The Cookbook Guru and commented:
First recipe for this month’s new Cookbook Guru and we have a beautiful braised rabbit from Glenda at Passion Fruit Garden. A meat perhaps that is a delicacy for most, but really should be a greater part of our diets.
I’m so excited to see the different ingredients that are going to appear in our kitchens this month.
I’m so glad you chose to join in again this month. It’s amazing what little gems are sitting in this book (and some quite entertaining recipes too). This dish sounds awesome. Thank you for sharing. 🙂
Leah, it was great, like I said, very similar to what my mum used to make.
I’m so glad