Lean, nutritious, and climate-friendly
It’s time to try this wild rabbit stew recipe from Italy’s Ischia island.
- SERVES: 4
- PREP TIME: 20 mins
- COOK TIME: 50 mins
- DIFFICULTY: easy
It’s not Thumper
Don’t think of it as Bambi’s friend Thumper.
Because rabbits breed, like rabbits.
And destroy a lot – like eating crops and young trees, etc
So, keeping on top of the population is a good thing.
And, eating it instead of shooting it and wasting it, is also a good thing.
But I’ll admit, I’m very new to wild rabbit.
However, I don’t see us becoming vegan or full veggie anytime soon.
But we are conscious of climate change and how reducing our meat intake, and what we eat will help.
So, this is probably one of the most eco-friendly ways to do it.
And it’s much more sustainable than the meat industry
Nutrition and taste
Rabbit is high in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, and minerals like calcium and potassium.
It’s also very lean and low in cholesterol.
So, when you’re cooking with lean meat, you don’t want it to go dry.
The slower you cook it, the better it will taste and stay moist.
But I’ll be very honest with you here.
I did not produce a moist, tender rabbit on my first go.
In fact, I would go as far as to say, it was quite tough.
So, there is a challenge for me to do it better.
And I think for this recipe, next time, I’d cook it for much longer on a lower heat.
And the taste? Well, rabbit is sort of a stronger version of chicken.
And a slightly sweet, vaguely gamey flavour.
Oh, and apparently, you can soak wild rabbit in cold water for 3 hours to whiten the flesh – if you prefer.
What is game / wild meat?
It’s all about harvesting meat from the wild.
In the UK, wild meat includes deer, rabbits, squirrels, ducks, geese, game birds such as partridges and pheasants, and pigeons.
Game animals can also be farmed, but then the benefits of truly wild game (below) are lost.
It’s also a lot cheaper than beef, lamb, chicken, etc.
Why you should try rabbit
Their free-ranging lifestyle and wild diet make wild rabbit a great healthy, flavoursome meat.
Eating less meat is a change we’re all being urged to make to help cut greenhouse gas emissions.
But we don’t need to stop eating it all together.
We just need to switch to conscientious choices, such as abundant and sustainable wild game.
Wild venison, rabbit and wood pigeon are also animals that need to be culled to maintain sustainable populations.
But you can also make good decisions when buying beef and lamb.
For example, a cow or sheep that have been raised on sustainable pasture contributes to carbon-rich topsoil from its dung.
The natural permanent grasses that feed the cow or sheep are said to be the largest terrestrial carbon sink on Earth.
Check out regen, farming.
And always remember, quality over quantity has never been more important.
Wild or farmed?
A wild rabbit in the UK will eat herbs and grasses and have a happier life in the wild.
Farmed rabbits are, more often than not, bred intensively and fed on a diet designed to bulk them out.
How to cook stunning wild rabbit
On the continent, rabbit is regarded as nutritious and appetizing.
And this dish, I’m (/we’re) trying is a wild rabbit stew recipe from Italy’s beautiful island, Ischia.
Rabbit is usually roasted, baked in a pie, or braised in a stew or casserole.
This will keep the meat nice and moist.
Having said that, as I said above, I failed to keep mine moist.
But it also can be used in terrines, rillettes or pâtés, a rabbit ragu, even a curry.
Bring chilled rabbit up to room temperature before cooking.
Always rest before serving to retain the juices (remember it’s a lean meat so can dry out).
And check the meat for a lead shot before and after cooking.
Flavours commonly paired with rabbit include garlic, rosemary, sage and prunes as well pancetta.
What to look for when buying rabbit
Look out for plump, pink rabbits that smell nice and fresh.
Rabbits with bruised flesh or a lot of lead shot damage should be avoided.
The RSPCA and other organisations have recently been pushing to raise awareness about inhumane treatment of some farmed rabbits.
So, ask your butcher, gamekeeper, or check your online butcher talks about the providence of the rabbit.
And if it is farmed, make sure you find out about where and in what conditions it was raised.
And only buy rabbit from the UK.
Quick fun facts about rabbit
- Hares, are not rabbits. They’re related but a different species.
- There are about eighty varieties of domestic rabbit but they can all be traced back to a single wild ancestor from the Iberian Peninsula.
- The Romans valued rabbits for their meat and fur and were the first to domesticate them
- In the 5th century, French monks began keeping rabbits for food as part of their self-sustaining lifestyle.
- The monks were the first to selectively breed rabbits to encourage desired traits such as weight and fur quality.
If you’re looking for some other great one-pan dishes, check out, 6 crowd-pleasing one-pan dishes.
Wild rabbit stew
- 2 rabbits
- 1 garlic bulb, halved
- 300 g shallots, sliced
- 1 chilli, cut in half, lengthways
- 500 ml white wine
- 500 g vegetable stock
- 200 g tomatoes
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 bunch of parsley, chopped
- 1 bunch of basil, chopped
- salt and pepper
- Joint the rabbits into pieces: the shoulders, ribs, loins and hind legs. Season all of the pieces with salt and pepper and lightly dust with a little flour
- Sauté the rabbit pieces all over in a frying pan over a high heat with a little olive oil. When golden-brown, set the rabbit to one side and discard the oil from the pan
- Pour in some more extra virgin olive oil and add the garlic, shallots and chilli. Cook for a few minutes until the shallots are golden
- Place the pieces of rabbit in the pan again and deglaze with the white wine. After about 5 minutes, add the tomatoes and the vegetable stock
- Leave to cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes
- Add the herbs and continue to cook over high heat until you obtain a thick sauce, for about another 30 minutes
- Garnish with some more basil and rosemary sprigs