Elizabethan Rabbit

A rabbit warren was part of the live larder of an Elizabethan home. Rabbits were still hard to rear and so were regarded as luxury food. It has been said that the Middle Ages ended at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, but the Elizabethans were still close enough in culinary terms to enjoy the use of fruit in meat dishes, a practice which I believe had come back from the Crusades.

Ingredients

  • 1 rabbit, jointed
  • plain flour for dusting
  • 55 g/2 oz lard or dripping
  • 3 Jerusalem artichokes, sliced
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 55 g/2 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 300 ml/½ pint red wine
  • a faggot of herbs
  • 2 apples, peeled and chopped
  • 115 g/4 oz grapes, halved and deseeded
  • 55 g/2 oz raisins
  • grated rind and juice of ½ orange
  • 150 ml/¼ pint stock
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

Method

Flour the rabbit joints and brown them well in lard or dripping in a casserole. Remove. Fry the artichokes, onions, carrots and mushrooms in the casserole for a few minutes. Pour over the wine and reduce slightly. Return the rabbit pieces and add all the other ingredients. Cook in a preheated oven at 180°C/350°F/Gas 4 for 2 hours.

A variation on this dish, which I like very much, is to stop the cooking at 1½ hours, transfer to a pie dish, add hard-boiled eggs and globe artichoke hearts, cover with a pastry lid and bake to serve as a pie.

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