I love rabbit but I have to admit there is a massive difference in flavour for the better when you get a good one. I had the opportunity today to work with a fantastic animal provided by producers Burrawong Gaian, Beth and Hayden sourced via the always fantastic butcher Hudson Meat. I got to meet Beth and Hayden in the Hudson’s store yesterday and it was an absolute pleasure to be able to thank farmers who are serious about quality. They supply two of my other favourite things, Wessex Saddleback pigs and the stunning Muscovy ducks. I have worked with them before but being able to try the rabbit was a wonderful thing.
The first thing that struck me was how much meat was on the rabbit, the size and the incredible quality of the animal. From the moment I began to break the rabbit down I was really wishing it could just be done there and then. Couldn’t wait.
So I decided to do something incredibly simple, the rabbit needed to really be the star and the meat needed to speak for itself. So I chose to do a one pot wonder Italian dish which is as simple to make as anything but the flavour, wow. Four of us sat down to the finished dish and all of us thought that it was sensational. The rabbit was the star and it is so simple to make. Here is the recipe and I encourage you to give it a go.
Another blustery day in the Blue Mountains, well Blackheath to be specific. We wandered past the pub this morning and I started thinking about a really tasty chicken dish I first ate at a pub years ago. It was pretty good but it definitely needed some work to lift it up. Inspired I decided to recreate it my way. It has its roots in Italian cuisine and it its fairly strong on the garlic front but it really is a sensational dish. Especially if you have a little bit of decent white wine left in a bottle from last night. The real star of this dish is the mushrooms so do make an effort to find good quality fresh Swiss Browns. Take a look at the stalks if they are hard and woody forget them. Find the mushies with the soft fresh stalks. And don’t even think about making this with anything other that real butter. If you don’t want to use real butter then make something else.
Recipe: Chicken with Creamy Mushroom and Garlic Sauce
Two single chicken breasts, sliced horizontally to make two flat pieces each
150g of swiss brown mushrooms, dice half of them and finely slice the other half
One shallot peeled and finely sliced
Two large garlic cloves cut in half and finely sliced
150ml of white wine at room temperature
150ml of thick cream at room temperature
Eight small new potatoes
A large handful of parsley chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Gently simmer the potatoes in water and as little salt while you make the rest of the dish. I normally cook them for about 10 minutes on a gentle boil then turn off the heat and leave them in the water to stay warm
Put about two tablespoons of butter and a splash of olive oil into a hot pan and toss in the mushrooms. Saute quickly on high heat till they brown and return them to a small bowl
In a little more butter and oil fry the chicken pieces until gently brown on each side and then remove to a plate and keep warm
Now with a little more oil toss into the pan the garlic and onion and fry gently, you dont want them to brown but simply cook until soft
Now toss in the white wine and deglaze the pan, reduce the wine by half
Toss the mushrooms back into the wine mixture and stir well
Now add the cream and as soon as it returns to a simmer place the chicken pieces back into the mixture and simmer gently
Reduce the cream mixture by half and turn the chicken pieces over during the process
Now place the cooked chicken pieces on to plates with 4 new potatoes each
Stir the chopped parsley into the sauce in the pan and turn off the heat
Spoon the sauce mixture over the chicken, season with ground pepper and serve immediately
This dis is great with a crusty bread roll to soak up the remaining sauce.
If you want a little more punch in this one try adding finely ground lemon zest at the same time as the wine.
Possibly one of the worlds most famous dishes is a Bolognese style sauce with pasta. There are possibly thousands of variations each one claiming to be original. Despite this the basic meat ragu sauce is at the heart of so many Italian dishes including Lasagne. An interesting fact here is that in Bologna the home of the sauce it was never served with spaghetti only with tagliatelle and there are some good reasons why. The sauce itself is extremely heavy and rich if made well and it needs a decent weighted pasta to carry it. The cooking time is long however its worth it, why not start it early afternoon go out and see some art and when you get home it will be ready to go.
This recipe is the simplest thing you may ever cook but it is also one of the most fantastic tasting. It is incredibly cheap and like many Italian dishes it comes from the heart and its great for using left over beef and pork mince. Cooking this takes me on a journey every time, over the simmering process the house fills with the most extraordinary smell that intensifies toward the end.
There is a simple rule here and its all you need to remember, 1/3 pork mince and 2/3 beef mince. That’s it. So this recipe should suit about 4 people. And when you buy your mince please don’t get incredibly lean mince on both of them, choose one and get the cheaper lower quality mince with some fat, this is important. If you are nervous then get the pork mince with a bit of fat.To be honest this is a dish that is asking for cheap mince.
300g of beef mince
200g pork mince
A large jar of tomato pasata. (this is concentrated tomato sauce in a large bottle normally about 750ml)
One pack of good quality dried tagliatelle, or thick ribbon pasta
Good quality parmigiana (parmesan) cheese
Cooking this dish requires a sort of trust that despite its simple appearance it will end up tasting fantastic. But if its your first time I will encourage you to try tasting it as it cooks so you can see what happens over time.
First of all in a heavy based casserole dish with a tight lid heat a generous amount of olive oil and begin to brown all of the mince. As you stir it with a wooden spoon break up the chunks. Continue to do this until all of the mince is brown.
Now pour in the entire bottle of sauce and stir it around, you might like to add in a little bit of water and when you do put the water into the pasata jar, put the lid back on and shake it to collect up all the leftover sauce in the jar. At this point the sauce should be very wet, lots of liquid going on in the pot.
Bring the lot to the boil then turn it right down low and simmer. Now when I say simmer i mean very gently bubbling intermittently. If your stove top wont achieve this level of heat I recommend a simmer mat from a good home wares store. If you don’t have a simmer mat then put the oven on 120 and slip the whole lot into the oven with the lid on.
And your done, leave the lid on, simmering on the stove or in the oven for about 4 hours. Check it hourly and give it a very gentle stir. I also encourage you to taste a little bit at each stir point and find out what happens. The sauce goes from plain jane to saucy sally over the simmer time.
When you are ready to do the pasta simply boil the tagliatelle according the packets instructions. Once its done drain it well, stir through a small amount of olive oil to stop it sticking and keep it warm.
At this point you will need to add a little salt and pepper to the sauce, stir it well and taste.
Put a good sized, heavy based frying pan on to medium high heat.
Slop a decent sized ladle full of the sauce into the pan and it should sizzle immediately. Stir it around to fry it quickly and then drop in a single serve of the pasta with tongs. You will not need oil in the pan there is plenty of it in the sauce already.
Toss together and then slide it all into a bowl or onto a plate. Repeat this process.
Top with grated parmigiana cheese and serve. I like to put a bowl of extra cheese on the table and let people add more if they like.
Any left over sauce can be frozen and I love to have it reheated on a big baked potato.
Red is definitely the go here, something acidic and low in tannin. I encourage you to take a chance, shop around and find a local or Italian Barbera. You can find a list of Australian growers here or you can order a few online. Take the time to try it, experimenting with wine is as important as experimenting with recipes.
Let me know what you think when you cook it, I will put money on you making it again and again.