March 19, 2011

The Hunter and The Cook

Last week Mitch left the wedding with his grandparents about 10pm. We stayed on.  I know it was way past Grandpa's bedtime, but I wondered what my son's motive was for leaving early.  We soon found out.  Driving up the long gravel country road we came to the gate.  I was mortified.  The gate was open!  It was almost midnight.  Oh know. Who forgot to shut the gate?  If there is one thing about country properties you must always do, it's shut the gate.  I was so stunned to see the gate open, that I overlooked seeing my son, standing there next to it with a big grin on his face.  I needed a moment to find my bearings.  Do you know the feeling?  When something isn't as it should be. 

There he stood in full glory, gun strapped over his shoulder, holding two rabbits.  I wound down the window to take a look.  He proudly announced he was heading up to the house but first he needed to collect the other two rabbits he left by the shearing shed.  He happily stated, "four bullets, four rabbits".  Crickey.  Won't Grandpa be pleased. 

There are signs the rabbit population in rural Australia is getting out of control.  Again.  It's never-ending.  The eradication program about fifteen years ago certainly slowed them down, but eradication is never going to happen.  It's all about control really.  At the moment, they are hopping about in huge numbers again.  So before Mitch blows his trumpet too loudly; to be fair there are heaps of them about.  I'm sure Grandpa would be happier if he were to stay for a month and wipe out 4,000 of them.  That's no exaggeration by the way.

After our six hour drive home, Mitch got out of the car and immediately raced down to Philomena's with his rabbits. He came back and said, "dinner's this Thursday".  Hurray.  For me, this means a night off cooking. But mostly it means a gastronomic delight at our wonderful European neighours place.

Our sprightly seventy year old Philomena

Just when I thought this lady can't surprise me any more; there she goes again.  The pots are bubbling away filled with her lovingly homemade food.  The rabbit casserole in one pot and in another - the biggest pot of homemade gnocchi you will ever see. I turned around to look for the other twenty people that must have been coming.  The table was only set for five.  Philomena says, "you always need a little bit extra".   Need I say more.

Philomena's French-Style Aussie Rabbit

In a glass or ceramic dish, marinate the following ingredients for 24 hours.

2 game rabbits, each cut into eight pieces
2 onions, wedged
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 bottle of red wine

Drain well.  Reserve wine. Discard onion and carrot.  Pat dry rabbit pieces really well.

8 button mushrooms, quartered
8 -10 French eschallots
2 cloves garlic
a small whole piece of smoked bacon (about 200gm at a guess)
6 tablespoons of cognac preferably; brandy can also substitute
olive oil
bouquet garni of your choice
cracked black pepper

Take a solid frying pan or pot;over high heat seal the rabbit in a combination of butter and oil till nicely browned.  Take out of pan.

Remove any burned bits.  Philomena stresses this is most important or it can spoil the entire dish.  In the same pan, add a little more butter, one tablespoon flour and return the rabbit.  Cook over a high heat working very quickly moving the rabbit around constantly.  You need the flour to just starting turning a nice light brown in colour.  Sounds tricky doesn't it?  Immediately add 6 tablespoons of cognac or brandy and flambe.  I guess until the alcohol disappears.

To this add the reserved marinated red wine, two large cloves of crushed garlic.  And enough water to only just cover the rabbit.  Bring to boil slowly; reduce heat; simmer for half an hour.

In France Philomena talks about these tiny champignons that apparently we can't get here in Australia.  Instead, she said take about 8 very small button mushrooms; quarter. 

Take 8 to 10 French eschallots; cut into wedges.  In a small frypan with a little oil, brown the eschallots.  When almost done; add diced pieces of dry, smoked bacon (all the fat cut out).  Philomena says she only uses the meaty bits off the bacon.  Add this to the eschallots and only heat up for a minute.  Basically to just release the flavour. 

Lift the lid off the simmering rabbit;  add the quartered champignons, the browned eschallots and smoked bacon. Season well with salt and cracked pepper and add a bouquet garni of your choice.  Mix well.  Simmer over a low heat for approximately two hours.  Philomena says your timing of the cooking depends largely on the age of the rabbit.  She sensed that Mitchell's rabbits were younger and only needed a minimum.  My goodness. I thought this took long enough.

Check the liquid from time to time. Toward the end of cooking time if there is too much liquid; leave uncovered; reduce till you reach the desired consistency of the sauce. 

Philomena says to remove any greasy spots floating in the dish. You may well have little or none. But if you do, then this will be from the added ingredients as the rabbit is almost fat free.   She also says that in France this dish would have some cream added right at the end.  She prefers it without the cream and I think I agree. It seemed rich enough without it.

Serve with your favourite carbohydrate.  And lots of green salad.

Bon Appetite!  Literally.

Thank you to the hunter and the cook.  Our meal was fit for a king.  Merci.


  1. Fit for anyone let alone a king! What a great meal and a fine tale! We get something called Chinese rabbit in our butchers, I have never bought it and no one turns up bearing rabbity gifts...

    I bet you could barely hop home after that glorious food.

  2. I need a Philomena neighbour. So I'll get a night off cooking :)

    Philomena looks so cute!

  3. This post is delightful, haha. I'm sure gramps was stoked with Micel's efforts. Probably sad to see him come home really. And that's a really cute photo of Phila!

  4. Yes Joanna - we did walk home rather slowly. I have many tales about our wonderful neighbours. We are terribly fortunate to have them. They have no children and they simply adore my son. He too, shares a close bond with them. We were the lucky recipients of their team effort!

    Oh Zurin - I wish you did too. I fully understand about the "having a night off cooking". I enjoy the day so much knowing the pressure is taken off not having to think about cooking the evening meal. Sounds trivial but it's true! I will continue to appreciate Romano and Philomena for as long as we have them. Their place has been on the market now for five months and I am crossing my fingers there will be no buyers. Romano says that if they haven't sold by the end of the year, then they will stay in Australia for good. They are missing their homeland terribly and decided they would move back. I want the best for them, but I can't help feeling a little selfish too for us. Our street would never be the same without them.

    Tar Nicka. Yes, I'm sure Gramps would've liked more rabbits in more pots - but I guess he'll take what he can get. I thought Phila looked cute too.

  5. Rabbits can easily become quite a nuisance. Well before I ever got here, as the high desert plain was being settled in Oregon, the overwhelming numbers of jack-rabbits threatened every agricultural and ranching effort - eventually, they eradicated hundreds of thousands -maybe millions- of them. I have no idea if they ate them, jack rabbits are big and muscular!

    Glad you guys are enjoying the adventure.

  6. I can't put the photo of my hunter on here but will email it to you!!!

    I cant believe you cooked and ate them ...never thought to do that!!

    Tell Mitchell Michael got 4 with 3 shots!! He said they were doing what rabbits do??????? What a way to go I replied.

    No doubt Philomena can make a mean dinner ...could taste it from here yum.

  7. Sounds like they are a pest in many parts of the world drfugawe. Jack rabbits sound big. I'm not sure if the Aussie rabbit is that big. We have lots of hares over here and I know they are big and muscular. Much larger than the average rabbit. Anyhow, bottom line, cooked well they are delicious. Thanks for dropping by.

    As long as the bullet doesn't 'shrapnel' inside the carcass, it's okay to eat Gayle. I really don't understand how it works so I won't pretend I know, but it has to do with how intact the bullet is after the animal has been shot.
    I told Mitch about Michael and we laughed for ages. Yes what a way to go. Oh and thanks for stealing Mitchell's thunder. He thought he did well till you said Mike got 4 with 3 bullets. Hehe.
    Philomena - there's nothing that you don't already know dear being her former neighbour. Except to verify that everything I say here is true!