Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter rabbit

The centrepiece of our Easter Sunday lunch was lapin aux pruneaux, rabbit with prunes, cooked by my friend Diane de Bellerive. Her version, she says, is based on "watching my mother prepare the meal for Easter Sunday in Valenciennes or at our country house in Janlin, le Nord-Pas de Calais. My relatives all came from this region, and spent the whole afternoon talking about their food experiences - when they weren't talking about politics. Between courses we kids would go and play in the garden, which was full of fruit trees and walnut trees. Other favourites for Easter Sunday were pigeons aux petits pois as an entrée (a specialité of my cousine Lucienne of St Souplet) and gigot d'agneau aux flageolets, my mother's succulent garlic and rosemary leg of lamb."

Lapin aux pruneaux à la Diane

1 rabbit of about 1.5 to 2 kg, cut into pieces (the butcher will do this if you ask nicely)
Salt, pepper
Dijon mustard and flour to coat rabbit pieces
1 level tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 small onions
150g carrots
150g smoked bacon cut into pieces
12 pitted prunes
3 tablespoons whisky
250 ml (1/3 bottle) white wine
1 500ml carton vegetable stock (or use home-made stock if you have it)
Flat-leafed parsley

One hour in advance, soak prunes in warm water. Peel and chop onions. Peel carrots and slice into rounds.
Salt and pepper rabbit pieces and coat them with Dijon mustard and flour.

Heat oil and butter in a large cast-iron casserole and brown the pieces of rabbit. Once the pieces are browned, and the pan is still hot, add 6 prunes and then the whisky, and light it to flambee the rabbit. Remove rabbit pieces. Add the bacon pieces to the juices at the bottom of the pot. Add onions and sweat in the juices. Add carrots, thyme, and the other 6 prunes, and cook briefly.

Put back the pieces of rabbit and add white wine, then enough vegetable stock to just cover the meat.
Simmer over very low heat for 2-3 hours until rabbit is just ready to fall off the bone.
Check liquid - it should be slightly thick. If it is too thin, remove rabbit to a warm dish and turn up the heat to reduce and thicken the liquid a little. Remove any thyme stalks, return rabbit and sprinkle chopped flat-leaf parsley over the top.

Serve with small plain boiled potatoes, or fettucine, followed by a refreshing tossed green salad.

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