RABBIT WITH BEER AND PRUNES
European Peasant Cookery
by Elisabeth Luard
Konijn met Pruinen (Belgium)
Ever since the first pair of breeding bunnies escaped from the domestic warrens installed in their colonies by the Romans, rabbit has been the poor man's portion - though in times of hardship, the landlord claimed it back. The Belgians are the world's rabbit experts, breeding for size and tenderness, and their Flemish Giant now stocks commercial rabbit farms throughout the world. My son's pet buck-rabbit, Pila - who must have weighed at least 6 kilos in his prime - was a powerful and fertile member of the breed. He would thump through his wire fence as and when he pleased, and succeeded in doubling the number and individual weight of the wild rabbit population in our Andalusian valley My Belgian neighbour, proud of his garden and fearful for his fine young lettuces, took to patrolling his boundaries with a shot gun This is what he did with the victims
Quantity: Serves 4-6
Time: Start a few hours ahead
Preparation: 20 minutes
Cooking- 1 hour
• 2 small wild rabbits or 1 large hutch-rabbit (Flemish Giant)
• 500g/1 lb prunes
• 600ml/1 pint water
• 1 teaspoon salt and pepper
• 1 teaspoon juniper berries
• 4 tablespoons butter or lard
• 3-4 onions
• 3-4 large carrots
• 600ml/1 pint lager (Belgian gueuze would be authentic)
• Utensils: A large casserole and a liquidizer if you like a smooth sauce
Put the prunes to soak in the water - overnight if they are very dry, an hour or two otherwise
Skin the rabbit, if this has not already been done for you It is very simple. Paunch it by slitting open die belly and pulling out all the insides onto a sheet of newspaper, taking care not to puncture die hide bitter gland near the tail. Examine die innards and save the liver, die heart, and the kidneys, and throw die rest away. Slit round the paws and up the back legs to the cut in the belly. Grip the flap of skin where the hind leg skin has been cut, and pull steadily down towards die head (easiest if you hang die back legs from a hook). The rabbit will skin as easily as pulling off a glove. Chop the saddle across to give 4-6 joints, depending on the size of the beast, and then chop each hind and fore haunch into 2-3 sections each. A thrifty peasant household would certainly include the head, split in two Season the meat with salt, pepper and die juniper berries, crushed
Peel and slice the onions and the carrot. Put the butter or lard to melt in a casserole. Add the vegetables and sauté them for a moment Push them to one side and put in die rabbit joints. Fry them until they take a little colour. Cover with lager and bring to the boil Add the prunes with their soaking liquid and continue to cook, etheir on top of the stove or in the oven, for an hour Before serving, crush the carrots, onions, and loose bits of prune into die stew to ducken die sauce - if you like your sauce smoodi, puree some of die vegetables with the juices in the blender.
Delicious made with chicken joint into 12-16 pieces and proceed as above.
Leftovers: Stir in a splash of water and a small glass of Dutch gin, add a couple of potatoes, peeled and match-sticked, reheat gently, lid and bubble for just so long as will cook die potato - 10 minutes.