I have been posting a lot of recipes for rabbit and venison, and there is a good reason for that. I live on an island that has beautiful sandy habitats called Machair on the west, facing the sea, and heather-covered hills to the east. The Uist islands are one of the few places left where the machair is still managed.
The rabbits have invaded the machair, and are eroding the dunes, and deer numbers are out of control, spreading ticks and with them Lyme disease as well as damaging native ecosystems. Wild greylag geese crop the machair lands very close, pulling up vegetation by the roots and fouling the grasslands.
The existence of the machair, and the biodiversity that it supports, depends on low level agriculture. This includes controlling the species that are present, wild and otherwise. Rabbits, geese and deer need to be controlled to keep the dunes safe, the grasslands in good condition, and conserving some of the more fragile aspects of our environment. By researching tasty recipes and passing them on, I am supporting local diversity.
We had this tonight, either this was an exceptionally tender rabbit, or the recipe was just fab. I think the latter. As it was midweek, I did my trick of doing the main cooking last night, and then reheating and cooking for another 15 minutes tonight.
- 1 rabbit, jointed
- seasoned flour
- 50g butter
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
- 1 cooking apple, peeled and diced
- 1 good pinch of dried thyme leaves
- a good grating of nutmeg
- 2 bay leaves
- 200g pancetta or diced smoked streaky bacon
- 300ml dry cider
- salt and pepper
- Heat the butter in a saucepan, and fry the chopped apples, onions, bacon and celery together. When the onion is soft and beginning to brown, set aside, and add the herbs and nutmeg.
- Dip the rabbit in the seasoned flour. Add a little more butter to the pan and fry the rabbit until the joints are browned.
- Add the cider and the fried onion mixture, bring to a simmer and season to taste.
- Cover and put into an oven heated to 150C for around an hour and a half.
We served this with mashed potatoes and braised cabbage. It would be excellent with parsnips too.
This is a basic venison casserole that could be made with meat from the shoulder, or other cut suitable for stewing. It is very simple and tasty. You could vary the vegetables a little to your taste. I have posted a similar recipe in the past, I think, but with a few more exotic ingredients.
- 700 to 900g venison, in 2cm cubes, trimmed of potential elastic bits
- 2 tbsp plan flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
- 2 onions, chopped
- 2 sticks of celery, chopped
- 4 carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 neep/turnip/swede, peeled and diced
- 200g smoked pancetta or bacon
- 1 bunch of parsley, finely chopped
- 1 tsp dried marjoram
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 300ml stock
- 300ml dark ale
- salt and pepper to taste.
- Set the oven to 150C. Prepare the meat and vegetables. Dip the cubes of venison into the seasoned flour.
- Heat the oil in a large casserole dish and brown the venison in stages, so it cooks in a single layer and browns easily. Put this in a dish for adding back to the casserole later.
- Fry the onion, celery and carrot together with the bacon until the onion is beginning to brown.
- Add the herbs, and stock, bring to a boil and add the ale. Bring back to the boil and add the meat and neeps. Adjust the seasoning at this point.
- Cook for 2 1/2 hours at 150C. You can cook it for a couple of hours and then set aside for reheating and a final half hour of cooking the next night.
We ate this with mashed potatoes and brussels sprouts.
This recipe first appeared in the Guardian in 2017, and has become one of my daughter’s go-to recipes. It is quite quick and easy, and delicious. I don’t worry about salting the aubergines that are in the shops just now, they don’t have many seeds and they are young and tender.
- 4 tbsp rapeseed oil
- 5 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
- 4 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or 400g tinned tomatoes
- 1 1/4 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder, or any other regular mild to moderate chilli powder
- 3/4 tsp turmeric
- 1 slightly heaped tsp salt
- around 3 aubergines, cut in half lengthways and then into 1cm thick slices
- 300g black-eyed beans
- 40g fresh dill
- greek yoghurt, salted and whipped with dill and mint.
- Rinse the black-eyed beans and put them in a lot of cold water on the hob, bring to the boil and simmer while you chop and cook the rest of the ingredients. Top up with water so they don’t boil dry.
- Heat the oil over a medium heat, and then add the chopped garlic. Fry for a couple of minutes until it starts to colour, and then lob in the tomatoes, turn the heat down and simmer until the mixture is soft. You should do this for tinned tomatoes as well, as it will lessen the tinny taste.
- Add the chilli, turmeric and salt and cook for a couple of minutes before adding in the aubergine. Stir, cover and cook over a low heat for at least 20 minutes, until the aubergines are tender.
- Stir in the beans, bring back to a simmer, and adjust the seasoning.
- Just before serving, add the chopped dill.
This is good with plain boiled rice, yoghurt and flat-breads, and possibly a side salad. For a vegan version, use a vegan yoghurt.
I reserve the right to edit this recipe from time to time. I have been testing out a few variations on this theme, and this one is the best so far. It has taken a bit of experimentation and quite a few rabbits. Thanks to those of you who have been supplying me and to those who have butchered them for me. I’ll need to learn how myself one day.
- 1 rabbit, jointed
- 15g plain flour
- salt and pepper
- mustard/rape-seed oil
- 100g smoked pancetta
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 sticks of celery, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 red chilli, chopped
- 2 sprigs of rosemary, chopped
- 200g mushrooms, sliced
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 75ml red wine
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 500ml stock
- 20 black olives, stoned
- chopped parsley
- Preheat the oven to 180C
- Season the rabbit meat and flour with salt and pepper. Dust the rabbit with the flour.
- In a large oven-proof pan, heat the oil and fry the rabbit in stages, browning on all sides, and setting this aside when done.
- In the same pan, add the onions, garlic, carrots, celery, peppers and pancetta and cook slowly until soft.
- Add the rosemary, wine and mushrooms and cook for a further five minutes, evaporating off any surplus moisture
- Mix the stock and tomato paste.
- Add the olives and rabbit to the pan, and pour over the stock. Put a lid on the pan and put it in the oven to cook for around an hour.
Best with mashed or baked potatoes.
I added mustard, cream and butter to mashed potatoes, to serve with some sausages and broccoli.
- about 600 to 800g potates
- around 20g butter
- chopped parsley
- 150ml double cream (you could use more, or use single cream)
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp grain mustard
- Salt and pepper
- Peel, chop and boil the potatoes as usual
- Meanwhile, in a small pan, melt the cream and mustard together
- When the potatoes are done, drain them, return them to the pan and mash with the butter, parsley, salt and pepper until smooth
- Mix and mash in the cream and mustard.
I love aubergines, and there were some great aubergines in the shop the other day, so I was inspired enough to order some quinces from Real Foods, a wholefood supplier in Edinburgh. I nearly didn’t post this recipe, because quinces aren’t something that is readily available, but it was excellent. The recipe is from one of my favourite recipe books, Nightingales and Roses. I didn’t follow the recipe exactly because the weather was nasty, time was of the essence and I discovered I didn’t have enough onions.
I used a bit of leg of mutton to make this, and cooked it quite slowly. I did it in two stages as I was cooking for others after work. The stew itself is very easy, everything is layered into one pot and simmered. I find that preparing stews in the evening, and then finishing the cooking the next evening works well for developing the flavours. I should imagine it would work well in a slow cooker.
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 4 onions, peeled and thickly sliced (should have been 6 – see above)
- 600g thick slices of mutton or lamb
- 1 1/2 tbsp sumac (this gives the stew a wonderful dark colour)
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 large aubergines, thickly sliced and salted
- 4 cloves of garlic, sliced
- 1 large quince, peeled and chopped, core removed
- 200g cherry tomatoes, halved
- 60ml water
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- 2 large potatoes, thickly sliced. (I added these on the next day when I heated the stew up and finished the cooking.)
- Pour half the oil into the bottom of a casserole dish or large saucepan, and arrange half of the onion slices on the bottom. Next, layer in the meat slices.
- Mix the sumac, turmeric, salt and pepper, and sprinkle a third of this over the meat, and then add the rest of the onions.
- Rinse any salt off the aubergines and arrange them on top, then the garlic slices and another third of the spice mix.
- Add the sliced quince, then top this with the rest of the spice mix and the chopped tomatoes.
- Mix the water with the tomato paste and the rest of the oil, whisk to combine, and pour over the top.
- Cover tightly and cook on a low heat for an hour and a half (I cooked for two hours on account of using mutton). (At this point I turned off the heat and went to bed.)
- Remove the lid and add the potato slices, and spoon some of the gravy over the top. Continue to simmer for a further half hour until the potatoes are tender and most of the gravy has cooked down.
- Sprinkle with a pinch of sumac, and serve with bread and a little light salad.