When I told people on Monday's school run that I'd just cooked a whole rabbit earlier in the day, I had a mixed response.
Some had rabbits as pets, so it didn't go down very well with them.
Some sort of disappeared from the group and backed away (maybe reminded of a certain Glenn Close film from the 1980s).
Others were curious and wanted to know how I'd cooked it and what it tasted like.
Gorgeous, I told them all. In a rich Bolognese-style sauce.
There is this thing with some people that rabbits shouldn't really be eaten, because they're often family pets and people don't like to think of their fluffy loved one chucked in a tomato sauce and cooked. But like it or not, we've been eating rabbits for years - a recipe exists from Roman times, at least.
Rabbit is incredibly lean, and needs a little fat to cook with it - I've used pancetta here or streaky bacon, chopped up - but some people told me they cook it with pork belly. It also tastes a little bit like chicken, according to my daughters, only slightly flakier in texture and more gamey. I didn't waste the offal that came with it - that got chopped up and added in too, to give a deeper, richer flavour. Honestly, please don't be squeamish about cooking with rabbit - it's a sustainable, readily available source of meat.
I was sent the rabbit to try by Farmer's Choice, a free-range meat supplier in the UK. This recipe will make about 8-10 big ladlefuls of the meaty sauce, so freeze any leftovers - it'll also mean you have some left in the fridge the next day to reheat for breakfast. I had mine with cauliflower rice, but it'd also be lovely with some courgette/zucchini strips, which take just a couple of minutes to pan-fry in some coconut oil. Yum.
Paleo Slow Cooked Rabbit Bolognese
Serves 8 (freeze any leftovers in individual portions for extra meals)
1 whole rabbit, with any offal that came with it (rabbit must be skinned and headless)
75g smoked streaky bacon, cut into cubes - or use pancetta
1 onion, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
about 100ml (or a small wine glassful) red wine
2 x 400g cans plum tomatoes (with no added sugar)
2 bay leaves
black pepper, to taste
2 pinches of dried rosemary
Take the clean and prepared rabbit carcass and remove the liver, heart and kidneys (with your hands) if they're still inside.
Curl the whole rabbit into a casserole dish that has a lid and chop up the offal and add that on top.
Next, make the sauce. Fry the bacon or pancetta in a dry frying pan until it releases most of its fat and starts to turn golden. Add the onion and garlic and fry for 2-3 minutes until softened. Turn up the heat and pour in the red wine, bring it to a simmer to burn off the alcohol. After a couple of minutes, add the tomatoes and use the spoon or spatula to break them up in the pan. Throw in the bay leaves. Season with a twist or two of black pepper and the rosemary. Pour the tomato sauce over the rabbit, give it a stir and a shake to distribute the sauce and make sure it's covering the rabbit. Put on the lid.
Cook at gas mark 2 for two and a half hours, checking it after 2 hours. The meat should be tender and easy to flake off the bone. If not, return it to the oven and let it cook a little bit more.
Once cooked, lift the rabbit out onto a clean board and let it cook enough so you can handle it. Using your fingers (you can wear clean, plastic gloves if you prefer) flake the meat off the bones and into the sauce, feeling for the tinier bones as you go, and putting them in a dish alongside. Go through the stew until no more bones remain.
To reheat, take the sauce with the flaked rabbit meat, and reheat in a pan, serving with courgette/zucchini strips or like I've done, some cauliflower rice stir-fried with a little spring onion, olive oil and salt. Remove the bay leaves before serving.
Farmer's Choice provided the rabbit for me to cook, along with a contribution towards the cost of the other ingredients. You can check out their range via their website.