Last week I cooked Thumper, and tasty he was too! I managed to get hold of a nice wild rabbit from my local market for just £3.50 and I had only one recipe I wanted to try with it – Jamie Oliver’s 12 hour rabbit bolognese which is also in his most recent book Jamie’s Great Britain.
Now the key to this recipe is to use wild rabbit – for some it can come as quite a surprise that rabbit meat is also farmed in the UK / EU. It is blander, fattier and tasteless compared to its wild counterparts, plus the farming practices are very questionable. Of course farmed rabbits are also more expensive too, about £3 to £4 more, so avoid!
This whole dish only takes about 20 mins to prepare, as all of the elements are shoved into the pot whole but as the name suggests, you need to cook it on a very very low oven for 12 hours. It’s a perfect weekend dish to shove in the oven, get on with your day and then have a delicious meal in the evening. Unless you’re a bit mental like me, who got up at 6.30am on a Wednesday morning and made it before work!
Having said that the prep was really easy, once the ragu is cooked, it all needs to be hand-picked / mixed together and it is quite labour intensive. Rabbits have LOTS of small bones so you need to make sure none get into the final ragu. This stage probably takes a good hour, including cooling time before you can get your rubber gloved hands stuck in.
I’ll also say that this makes LOTS of portions. Jamie reckons it serves 14 but I would say 10 if eating with lots of bread and salad and about 6-8 if not.
I didn’t have all of the ingredients in stock so I changed the original recipe up slightly – this is very versatile and you could pretty much bung in whatever herbs / veg you have at hand. I think a bulb of fennel would make a really nice touch and add another dimension of flavour.
The flavours of the ragu are sweet, smoky and gamey – the slow cooking adds a nice intensity to it all and it’s probably one I will make again.
4 rashers of pancetta, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of rosemary
1 whole rabbit, skinned including offal if possible – mine came with liver and kidneys
1 bulb of garlic, skin peeled away but left whole
2 carrots trimmed, but left whole
2 sticks of celery,trimmed again left whole if they can fit in your pan
2 red onions, skin on, washed and halved
1 white onion, skin on, washed and halved
2 tins of tomatoes
500ml light ale – I used Golden Speckled Hen, but you could use white wine too
2 tablespoons tomato purée
sea salt and ground pepper
1 whole nutmeg, to grate (I actually used mace as I had run out of nutmeg, I used 1/2 tsp)
Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
Pasta – 80-100g per person
Preheat the oven to 110°C and then put a large casserole pan on a medium heat. Add the olive oil and the pancetta. Once brown and the fat has rendered out, add the bay and rosemary sprigs and lay the whole rabbit and offal on top. Add the rest of the ingredients and then enough water to cover everything. Bring to the boil, and season. Add the mace / nutmeg and then clamp on the lid. Stick the pan in the oven and leave to cook for 12 hours. If you can, check halfway through and add any more water if you think it needs it.
Once it’s cooked, you definitely need to leave the pan to cool for a while. Then, using some rubber gloves (or just your hands if you leave the whole thing to cool completely, pick through the stew and shred / squish up all of the meat and veg into a clean pan / bowl, discarding all bones / veg skins. Strain into the shredded meat mix any remaining pan juices. Add the lemon zest and some picked fresh thyme leaves – mix together. Taste and season if required.
At this point you can portion out the sauce if you aren’t eating it all immediately and freeze / refrigerate.
Serve the ragu with pasta, adding some of the pasta water to the sauce to amalgamate it all. Add some grated parmesan and some more thyme / basil.