Wascally wabbit


Lapin a la moutarde (Rabbit with Mustard)

Lapin a la moutarde (Rabbit with Mustard)

Deal to those furry varmints with this classic dish from rural France.

BY ALEX COLBY. 23 September 2014. In her indispensable book, Exotic Intruders, a history of the introduction of plants and animals to New Zealand, Joan Druett says that “for hundreds of years man has been partial to a rabbit in the pot.” While she is referring to simple dishes like rabbit stew – once so well founded in English recipe books as to be practically a national icon – she more accurately might have said “thousands of years”: no history of humble cuisines in many parts of the world could exclude this abundant form of small game.

The history of the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) in New Zealand is short but dramatic. Originally introduced in the 1830s (the exact date is now obscure because soon no-one was anxious to claim responsibility!) rabbits quickly flourished to the point where they threatened the agriculture of the country. Their voracious nibbling and exponential rate of reproduction bankrupted a number of early South Island run-holders, and helped to create deserts where lush tussock country had flourished before. By the 1870s legislation was being passed against them and to this day landowners are legally obliged to keep rabbits under control.

Rabbit meat, once a major export industry for New Zealand, has been out of fashion for several decades, which is a pity because it is a tasty and versatile high quality protein that is leaner than pork and beef and a handy substitute for chicken. It is also good for you, being a rich source of unsaturated omega fatty acids and relatively low in cholesterol and sodium.

Some enterprising restaurants around the country feature rabbit on their menus – notably in Central Otago where it should be on every table because of the problems they still have with the pestilential little beasts – and you can find rabbit here and there at butchers, speciality supermarkets and markets. I prefer the easier option of purchasing it online at moreish.co.nz. Click away, and a few days later a whole, vacuum-packed wild rabbit arrives by courier. Like any good butcher, moreish.co.nz does the work of eviscerating and dressing the animal, so all you need do is joint it. (If you are unsure about how to joint a rabbit, there are plenty of instructions on Google.)

How moreish.co.nz's dressed whole wild rabbit looks when it arrives

How moreish.co.nz’s dressed whole wild rabbit looks when it arrives

The recipe that appears below is a bit of a trip down memory lane – and across the world. When I was young, my father’s work used to take him into a part of the Northland countryside that was plagued with rabbits. He always took his .22 rifle along, and guess who had to go and retrieve the bodies? It was poor, steep hill country, terraced with sheep tracks, and I remember the effort of racing down the hillsides, and the weight of the dead rabbits as I laboured back up to the car.

The second memory is a happier one from a land where they eat a lot more rabbit than we do. In France you can buy rabbit everywhere from tiny boucheries to big supermarkets, and in Paris my local butcher had a stone vat in which pieces of rabbit sat marinating in Dijon mustard.

The recipe below for Lapin à la moutarde (Rabbit with Mustard) is a typical country-style dish you find in bistros across France. I have adapted it slightly from a version by Andy Harris in Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine. Served with a good glass of red wine or chardonnay, it will transport you to whichever part of France you love best.

Photos: John Corbett

Alimentary thanks moreish.co.nz for the opportunity to try their delicious wild game products. For more about moreish, see “Wild thing!” on this website.

Lapin à la moutarde (Rabbit with Mustard)

5 tbsp Dijon mustard (Alimentary likes Delmaine brand)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 rabbit, jointed into 8 pieces
2 tbsp butter
2 slices streaky bacon, diced
2 shallots, peeled and sliced (substitute onions if you wish)
150ml dry white wine
250ml crème fraîche
250ml chicken stock
1 small handful fresh thyme
2 fresh bay leaves

Combine 4 tbsp mustard, olive oil and some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper in a large bowl.

Add the rabbit pieces and make sure they are well covered by the mustard mixture. Refrigerate, covered, for 3 hours minimum.

Remove the rabbit from the refrigerator and bring it to room temperature.

Heat half of the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the diced bacon and shallots and sauté for about 5 minutes or until softened and the bacon is beginning to brown. Transfer to a cast-iron casserole pot.

Heat the remaining butter in the frying pan over medium heat and sauté the rabbit pieces until browned or for about 8-10 minutes.

Transfer to the casserole pot with any of the remaining mustard marinade.

Add the white wine to the frying pan and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Add the crème frâiche and stock, stir well and continue to cook for 5 minutes.

Pour this mixture over the rabbit and add the thyme and bay leaves. Stir the mixture well then place the casserole pot over a medium heat and bring to the boil.

Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring the mixture occasionally, or until the sauce has thickened and the rabbit is tender.

During the last 10 minutes of cooking, add the remaining 1 tbsp of Dijon mustard, season generously with sea salt and black pepper and stir to combine.

Serve rabbit with the sauce and blanched green beans. (Alimentary used asparagus in celebration of the spring.) In some parts of France, this dish is often served with pasta (tagliatelle is good.)

Suggested wine and beer matches: A red wine with a bit of acidity goes well with this dish, e.g. rioja, tempranillo, sangiovese, pinot noir. Chardonnay. Wheat beer.



Wild thing!

Goat cooked with Yoghurt, Cream and Aromatic Spices

Goat cooked with Yoghurt, Cream and Aromatic Spices.

Made with premium wild game meat harvested from the Marlborough wilderness, this recipe for Goat cooked with Yoghurt, Cream and Aromatic Spices is a delicious way to expand your culinary horizons.

BY JOHN CORBETT. Although the goat (Capra aegagrus hircus) is one of the most ancient of domesticated animals, its meat is not widely eaten in the Western world. The celebrated goat’s milk cheeses (chèvre) of France are of course something else again, but as the mainstay of a meal goat is typically a dish of the Mediterranean lands and the Middle East. In many parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America it is a staple; an estimated 70 per cent of the world’s population, in fact, dines on goat.

This is a testament to their good taste because goat is a lean and savoury meat with a flavour similar to that of lamb, and as versatile in cooking as any red meat. And just as Europeans traditionally enjoy pork from “nose to tail”, so do many other cultures celebrate all the edible parts of the goat.

New Zealand has a history with goats that is as old as its connections to the European world. Being hardy travellers and good sailors, goats were routinely carried on board ships of exploration as a source of fresh milk and meat. Captain Cook took an unnamed nanny goat around the world on two of his great voyages; at the end of her maritime career she was admitted as a pensioner to the Greenwich Hospital for retired sailors and given a silver collar inscribed by Dr Samuel Johnson.

Liberated on our shores in the late eighteenth century as a food resource for the shipwrecked, and later for sealers and whalers, goats flourished to the extent that by the 1970s large-scale culling was needed. Some wild herds still remain and are carefully sourced by Moreish, a Palmerston North-based online (and bricks-and-mortar) boutique butchery specialising in free-range and organic meats and premium wild game such as rabbit, venison and goat.

When the opportunity came to expand my culinary horizons by tasting and writing about Moreish’s products I pounced, ordering Diced Wild Goat, Denver Leg Venison Steak and a whole fully prepared Wild Rabbit. All of the wild animals supplied by Moreish are humanely trapped, caught or shot in the wilderness of the Marlborough region and are processed through the MPI-approved facilities of Premium Game Ltd in Blenheim.

GPS tracking ensures all animals come from areas free of pest control methods such as 1080 poison, and provides traceability. The quality of the tender young wild goat meat that I enjoyed shone through, and you will also read about my experiences with Moreish’s wild rabbit and venison in forthcoming blogs.

The online ordering process was easy and my products arrived by trackable courier in a sturdy recyclable chiller carton. (A thoughtful free courier return service is also available for the reusable Thermogard icepacks that keep the vacuum-packed products in perfect condition.)

Diced Wild Goat from Moreish boutique butchery.

Diced Wild Goat from Moreish boutique butchery.

Finding a recipe that would do justice to the quality of the wild meat was a little harder, but after some casting about I found an excellent dish by the Australian chef Stefano de Pieri which also includes an interesting piece of food history.

The recipe is unusual in that it uses the flavours of ginger, cardamom and coriander that typically belong to Indian cuisines. De Pieri explains in a video accompanying the recipe (see the link below) that northern Italian cooking largely abandoned Asiatic flavours after the Middle Ages, although they remain in the Arab-influenced cuisines of Southern Italy and Sicily.

Making this dish is an aromatic pleasure as it cooks, the scents of ginger and cardamom gently perfume your kitchen. Eating it is also a satisfying textural experience: the creaminess of the sauce and the softness of the potatoes are offset by the subtle crunch of the almonds and the tender meat of the young wild goat. The recipe also has the virtue of simplicity, being made in a single pot or casserole on the stovetop with no frying, poaching or baking. It also works very well with beef and lamb.

For more information about premium wild game and free-range and organic meats from Moreish, go to: www.moreish.co.nz

Goat cooked with Yoghurt, Cream and Aromatic Spices 
Serves 6

Adapted from a recipe by Stefano de Pieri in Stefano’s Cooking Paradiso.
Video available at: https://www.lifestylefood.com.au/recipes/11173/goat-curry

1kg diced lean goat
1 cup plain yoghurt
2 Tbsp flaked or slivered white almonds
2 medium-size brown onions, peeled and roughly chopped
1 heaped Tbsp of chopped fresh ginger
Generous pinch of ground coriander
Generous pinch of ground cardamom
Generous pinch of salt
Generous pinch of pepper
350ml cream
4 potatoes, quartered
Sprigs of fresh coriander for garnish.

Place the yoghurt and almond flakes in a blender. (I used a large bowl and my trusty Sunbeam stick blender instead and it worked just fine.) Add the chopped onion and chopped ginger. Blend the ingredients until creamy.

Pour the mixture into a medium-size pot or casserole.

Add the diced lean goat, salt and pepper, coriander and cardamom.
Pour 350 ml of cream over the mixture. Stir to combine.

Place the pot on the stove and cover with a lid.

Cook on a very low heat for about one and a half to one and three-quarter hours, stirring occasionally.

Halfway through the cooking (about 45-50 minutes), add the potatoes.

Serve garnished with fresh coriander leaves.

Photos: John Corbett



Rustic Gallic Magic



Richard Till's Quick and Easy Coq Au Vin

Richard Till’s Quick and Easy Coq Au Vin

Richard Till’s Quick and Easy Coq Au Vin.

BY JOHN CORBETT. 11 July, 2014: Here in the north of New Zealand, in the middle of the southern hemisphere winter, the weather has been atrocious for three weeks. A ten-day stretch of cold, damp weather was followed – after a one-day respite of watery sunshine – by a stalled low-pressure weather system that has brought days of high winds and lashing rain. It is far from over.

At this time of year, one’s thoughts turn to how accurately our European forebears described New Zealand as “another England”. The winters in these oceanic islands, set squarely across the wind belt of the Roaring Forties, are as bleak as those in another cold and rainy archipelago on the other side of the world. The genetic inheritance of many here also predisposes them to seasonal gloom.

I try to look on the brighter side. Cold weather is a time for warm and comforting food, and for the complementary activity of fortifying oneself against the chill and greyness by cooking in a cosy kitchen. Coq au vin isn’t of course an Anglo-Saxon dish like a roast leg of lamb or Lancashire Hot Pot (it is in fact a very old French rustic dish), but its heartening tastes of garlic and herbs and mushrooms and red wine are perfect winter fare, and since the mid-20th century it has become more familiar here.

Like many traditional recipes its preparation can demand the best part of a day (the eponymous coq, or rooster, from which it was originally made needed long slow braising to make it tender) – but few of us in the age of the Instagram have that amount of time. That’s why I like this quick and easy version of coq au vin by the well-known Christchurch food writer, Richard Till.

When Richard Till wrote a cookery column for the Sunday Star-Times, I collected a big clippings pile of his recipes – and I wish he would produce a book of them. A highly intelligent cook with decades of hands-on experience in café and restaurant kitchens, he has a deep knowledge of New Zealand food and an understanding of what Kiwis like to eat. Richard contributed this recipe to a food industry calendar that I helped to produce last year. It will definitely drive the cold and greyness away.

Quick and Easy Coq au Vin
Serves 4-6

100g thick-cut bacon, cut into small strips
4 chicken thigh portions (or a whole chicken cut into serving pieces)
2 Tbsp flour mixed with 1½ tsp salt and a few grinds of black pepper
16-20 small picking onions, peeled
10 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups red wine
2 bay leaves
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
A few sprigs of fresh parsley
200g tiny button mushrooms
Salt and pepper

Brown the bacon in a heavy frying pan over a moderate heat. When nicely browned, remove the bacon and set aside. Leave the bacon fat in the pan.

Coat the chicken pieces in the seasoned flour, shake off excess.

Working in batches so as to not overcrowd the pan, brown the chicken pieces on all sides over a low to moderate heat. As the pieces are browned, place them in a large casserole or baking dish.

Brown the onions lightly in the frying pan. Add the browned onions and the cloves of garlic to the casserole with the chicken.

Deglaze the pan with the chicken stock and wine. Take care to scrape all the browning from the pan into the liquid. Add the liquid from the pan along with the mushrooms and herbs to the casserole dish.

Cover and cook in a preheated 190C oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until the chicken is tender and cooked through.

Take the casserole from the oven when cooked. Gently lift the chicken, mushrooms and onions from the sauce with a slotted spoon and place on a warmed serving dish or platter. Keep warm.

Bring the liquid in the casserole to a rolling boil and reduce until it is roughly 1 cup of sauce.

Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve, or if not serving immediately, return the chicken to the sauce and keep warm until ready to serve.

Chef’s tip: The pickling onions peel very easily if you plunge them in boiling water, simmer for 2 minutes then drain and cool.

Recipe and Photo: Richard Till