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.