There is very little more soothing than a slow cooked rabbit ragu. It’s Beatrix Potter for your palette; soft and mellow with a texture that’s like pulling stray blanket strands.
On our return from the marathon effort in Melbourne we made a version and paired it with orechiette pasta; the novelty of eating ‘bunny-ear’ pasta kept us chortling well through a bottle of wine.
My sister and her clan was meant to come and join us for the meal. Yet in the middle of the bunny being prepped and dinner being served, life intervened. So The Hungry One and I ate it alone.
Yet, rabbit is a meal that deserves to be shared.
So on a Saturday morning when we woke feeling a little thread-bare and overwhelmed the choice of what to have for tea was easy.
Bring on a trip to the Eveleigh markets. A shot of community, a bacon and egg roll, a Toby’s Estate coffee and a rabbit hunt later, we roll on home.
Our bunny is ready to have its bits and pieces taken out, its excess fat trimmed and be floured, seasoned and quickly browned in the trusty Le Creuset with some olive oil.
From there our Peter Rabbit hops straight into the slow cooker. In with it goes the roughest mirepoix known to man; onion, garlic, carrot and celery are all quickly sauteed off.
They and the bunny then get to know each other a bit better in the slow cooker, their socialisation assisted by half a bottle of pink wine, some parsley stems, oregano and a sprig of rosemary.
This motley crew is then left alone for about five hours, while we dream about country houses, tend to the dying herb garden, read the papers, do some mending and decide to make some pasta dough.
In another scene from a marriage, the production of the accompanying orechiette (more coin than ear shaped) discs turn into a battle of speed against style.
One of us had a technique that involved two hands simultaneously toiling on a three fingered pinch. A nimble flurry might be one way of describing it. For the other it was all about fastidiously extracting a little bit of dough at a time and pressing it into shape over the crest of a manly thumb. The Hungry One maintained that you could taste that patience and love, and that a stitch in time saved nine. I said the allusions to Beatrix Potter and the bunny were enough. We didn’t need to start bringing Aesop’s tortoise and the hare into this as well.
Then we’re all about drying the pasta and prepping the ragu. When its pale flesh is pulling off its lithe little frame it’s time to extract the wilting rabbit carcass from the slow cooker.
A new, much more delicate mirepoix was made of garlic, celery, fennel, brown and red onion and carrot, and is slowly softened it with a spoonful of the bunny cooking liquid.
The rabbit meat then gets picked off and shredded and folded into the vegetables.
Making sure there are no bones left in the bottom, everything in the slow cooker is blitzed by the stick blender, and the resulting fawnish liquid gets folded around the shredded meat, with a splash more wine and a little water to loosen.
Then its time to realise that you have far too much food for four, and to call your sister to come over.
Meanwhile, we cook off the pasta and combine it with a dusting of parsley, pepper, oregano and sea salt. Added to that is a pile of parmesan and a big green salad.
Then we add family and friends and conversation that darts from digital art, to Marrakesh, to country houses and court cases.
The pasta may have been a bit doughy (consistency being the key), and some topics a bit prickly, but all in, it was an evening steeped in a soft rug of support.
Bunny was made to be shared.
The best summation came from my two year old niece, who had just one thing to say as she forked into her portion with a lime green splade.
“Yesh” she said, with her mouth full. “It’s good.”