Polenta used to be the staple diet of Italian peasants all over central and northern Italy, from Emilia Romagna upwards.
If you are one of the many who recoil from cooking or eating rabbit, this dish works equally well with chicken or stewing veal, pork or beef.
Wash the rabbit and dry it carefully, put it in a bowl and cover with the white wine. Heat the oil and fry the garlic for about 5 minutes, then add the carrot, celery and rosemary. Stir and cook for about 8 minutes, then add the diluted tomato purée and stir carefully.
Drain the rabbit pieces, reserving the wine. Put the pieces of rabbit in the pan with the carrot and celery and raise the heat to seal them quickly all over. Then add the wine and cook quickly for about 2 minutes to evaporate the alcohol. Lower the heat, add the olives, season and cover. Simmer for about 45 minutes or until the rabbit is tender, adding water if it appears to be drying out
In the meantime, cook the polenta. Bring the water to the boil, then trickle in the polenta flour like a fine rain, stirring constantly. This is much easier if you get somebody to help you. Boil the polenta slowly for about 50 minutes, stirring continuously. Make sure you scrape well round the edges of the pan to prevent lumps forming. You need a good strong arm and a heavy duty wooden spoon or whisk to achieve a smooth and lump-free texture.
When the polenta is cooked, tip it out on to a large serving dish and shape it like a cake with a spatula. Make a deep trough in the top with a big spoon and tip in the rabbit stew. Serve at once, with plenty of full bodied red wine.
© 1990 Valentina Harris. All rights reserved.