Looking at my stats for that post indicates that the interest for cooking rabbit must be fashionable at the moment. Is it because we are close to Easter and some in Australia consider rabbit to be a suitable Easter dish?
Chicken recipes seem also to be popular at Easter.
Not so in Italy.
If Italians are going to cook at home, they are more likely to cook spring produce – lamb or kid, artichokes, spring greens and ricotta is at its best.
If you live in Ragusa, Sicily, you are more likely to have a casual affair with family and friends and eat scacce or impanate – vegetables or vegetables and meat wrapped in oil pastry (see links at bottom of this post).
This is a common Italian saying that seems appropriate for Australia as well. Natalie con I tuoi, Pasqua con chi voi.
Christmas with yours (meaning family) and Easter with whom ever you choose.
There are several recipes for cooking rabbit and hare on my blog. There are also recipes for cooking chicken and I have chosen to list the chicken recipes that would be suitable to cook as chicken or to substitute the chicken with rabbit. If you are substituting rabbit for a chicken recipe, cook it for longer and you may need to add more liquid during the cooking process.
One of my Sicilian aunt’s favourite ways to cook rabbit in Ragusa was Cunnighiua Pattuisa (cunnighiu is coniglio in Italian, rabbit in English). I did some research and found that two other Sicilian food writers call it something different: Giuseppe Coria calls it Cunnighiua Portisa, and Pino Correnti Cunnighiu a Portuisa. In Italian this becomes, alla Portoghese, that is in the Portuguese style.
I am not quite sure why the Portuguese are accredited for this recipe, but one can assume that it is because of the Spaniards in Sicily.
Sicily was ruled by Spaniards at various times by: House of Aragon (1282–1516), Kingdom of Spain (1516–1713), Duchy of Savoy (1713–1720), Habsburg Monarchy (1720–1735) and Kingdom of Naples (1735–1806).
Located on the southwestern tip of the European continent in the Iberian Peninsula are Spain, Andorra and Portugal and Portugal only gained independence from Spain in 1640. Olive oil, olives and capers are used extensively in Sicilian and Spanish cooking.
There are various versions of this recipe for rabbit cooked in the Portuguese style as cooked in Ragusa and most seem to contain green olives and capers. Some contain vinegar, others white wine. Some recipes suggest adding a spoonful of tomato paste (mainly to enrich the colour), some add a little sugar, others chilli.
I cooked a version of this rabbit for friends in Adelaide, the photos tell the story.
In a fry pan I browned 1 rabbit in about ½ cup extra virgin oil. I sectioned the rabbit into 5 pieces (number of pieces is optional).
I then added some salt and pepper, some green olives and capers, 2-4 cloves garlic and some fresh thyme. Sicilians would use a few fresh bay leaves. If you are using salted capers make sure to rinse them and soak them in several changes of fresh water.
I then added about 1 glass of white wine mixed with ½ cup of white wine vinegar. I covered it with a lid and cooked it slowly on low heat.
*If it is a tender rabbit and if it is cut into small enough pieces, the rabbit may be cooked by the time all of the liquid has evaporated. If the rabbit is not as young or as tender as you had hoped, and you feel that it needs to be cooked for longer add a little water, cover with a lid and simmer it gently until it is soft – keep on adding more wine and water.
I partly cooked some potatoes and placed them with the rabbit for the last 20-30 minutes of cooking. The green leaves are mint. These add colour and taste: Ragusani use quite a bit of mint in their cooking.
My mother would often say that I was ‘fissata’….fixed, almost obsessed….and I guess I am at the moment with making terrines and pâtes. And the many I have made lately are turning out just fine. (I have made three terrines and two pâtes in two weeks – all taken to friends’ places)
I think that one of the many things I like about making the above is that weights and measurements are not important. You can have a rough idea about the meats you want to buy, the herbs you would like to use, the alcohol you wish to use as a flavouring, texture you wish to achieve (layered strips of meat, shredded, minced, mousse) and off you go.
For the terrine above I used minced chicken, minced pork and twice the amount of yearling beef (low fat – I hate beef fat!) – all free range and preservative free. At times, I have used my food processor to mince different meats. Quantities were roughly 450g of pork, 450g of chicken and about 800g of yearling.
The herbs are fresh thyme and sage.
The alcohol was white wine and brandy. The only type of brandy I had at home was Vecchia Romagna, too good to cook with, but never mind.
I used nutmeg and salt and ground black pepper. I added pistachio nuts and more thyme.
I mixed it all up and left it overnight, but is OK to macerate just for a few hours.
Bacon is an important ingredient in terrines – moisture and fat. I trimmed the bacon and lined the terrine with the strips. My bacon rashes were not long enough to hang over the side, but this did not matter as I used other bacon strips to cover the terrine
I added the minced meats on top.
And placed more bacon to cover it. I used baking paper and a lid from my other terrine mold and placed it in a baine -marie, i.e. a hot water bath – mine was made with a roasting pan large enough to hold the terrine and deep enough for the water to come at least half way up. The purpose of cooking food via a bain-marie is that it creates a gentle heat around the food and results in a uniform cooking process.
I cooked it on 195C for two hours.
When you take off the lid and paper you will notice that the terrine has shrunk and there will be liquid around the meat. All good news – the liquid will turn into very flavourful jelly and the meat will need to be pressed. This is easily done by putting a wight on top.
I used a new piece of paper and an another terrine pan filled with water to press it. At other times I have used bricks and stones – be adventurous (another reason why I like making them).
Leave it overnight in the fridge for the flavours to mature (longer if you wish). When you are about to serve it, run a knife around the edges, turn it upside down and WOW.This one was taken to a holiday house at Balnarring Beach, Terrines are just so portable!
OK, it may not be Sicilian butI think that Sicilians would like it. if you wish to make a Sicilian Terrine see Gelatina:
Those of you who have been around as long as I have and were making terrines in the 80’s may be familiar with using finely minced chicken (mousseline) as a binder for layering vegetables.
My bible at the time for making terrines was Terrine, Pâtés & Galantines. It is one of many books in this Time Life Books, The Good Cook.
I had not used this book in years as terrines and pâtés have dropped out of vogue in Australia but I was in France the year before last and particularly in Paris terrines were very much still eaten and I have wanted to make a terrine or pâté ever since. Today was my chance and I am taking this one to a friend’s place to eat on her balcony while we celebrate Christmas eve – terrines are very portable, great for picnics too.
When I looked at this book I also found a number of magazine cut outs with recipes inserted between the pages and on one of them was this very same recipe (published 1981), but it was accredited as being a recipe from Fanny’s restaurant in Melbourne (opened in 1960 and closed in 1993). There was no mention or credit given to the origins of this recipe. The original recipe is called Chicken and Vegetables Terrine and is as cooked in the three star restaurant Les Frères Troisgros, in Roanne, France.
I used chicken fillets for making the mousseline. Cut them into chunks. Place in a food processor and blend until broken down and smooth. Egg and flavourings are added to the pureed chicken; it is the main component of the terrine and used as a binder for the vegetables.
The original Les Frères Troisgros recipe is in six layers. The vegetables are parboiled for a few minutes and cooled. The chicken puree is divided into 3 bowls – in one bowl the carrots are added (cut into batons); in the other the green beans and the third is plain. The vegetable mixtures are then placed in layers – plain, carrot, beans, a thin layer of black olives in a row in the centre, plain, carrot, beans.
Now that I am looking at the original recipe I am wondering why I am giving you all this information – mine is quite different, but let us give credit where credit is due and it did provide inspiration and brought back fond memories of making terrines.
I used my Le Creuset, Enamelled Cast Iron Pâté Terrine w/ Lid that I bought in the 80’s, and is still being produced by Le Creuset. If you do not have one of these pans, use a loaf pan (roughly 20cm/x10cm).
What I did.
5-6 chicken fillets cut into chunks
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
5 spring onions sautéed in a little oil (original recipe used shallots)
1 tablespoon white wine or champagne vinegar * I used sherry vinegar (softer tasting)
a handful of green beans, parboiled for 1-2 minutes and cooled, (*I dressed them with a little vinaigrette)
a handful pitted black olives (*mine were marinaded In fennel seeds, oregano and extra virgin olive oil)
*a handful of pistachio nuts
*juice and grated peel of ½ lemon
* ground pepper (I used pink peppercorns)
*fresh sage leaves to line the bottom of the pan
* ½ cup almond or hazelnut butter = grind nuts into meal with oil to make a paste (I used this for taste but also because my friend is allergic to diary)
Sauté chopped spring onions in a little oil and cool.
Mince chicken fillets in a food processor. Add ¼ cup of the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Add cooked spring onions, egg, lemon juice and peel, marjoram, almond or hazelnut butter and puree until very smooth.
Oven to 180C
Lightly grease the pan you will use. Place fresh sage leaves on bottom for visual impact and taste. Sage and marjoram are doing well in my planter box and marjoram goes well with chicken, however other herbs, e.g. thyme, rosemary, tarragon will also be suitable.
Divide puree into 3 lots.
Place first lot on top of the sage leaves and spread it with a spatula to cover entire bottom surface. Place green beans keeping the beans in straight lines going in the same direction. Then cover with a layer of chicken mixture.
Place olives on top, add pistachio nuts. Then cover with a layer of chicken mixture.
Place pan in a larger pan filled with enough boiling water to reach about ½ to ¾ of the way up the sides of the pan. Set in oven and bake for 35 mins.
Remove the pan from the oven and let the terrine rest for about an hour in the pan. or until it is cooler. Run a sharp knife between the terrine and the pan to loosen it and carefully turn it upside down on a plate to catch any juices. Wrap in with baking paper, place a weight on top ( I used the lid of the Le Creuset pan) and let it cool in fridge for at least 3 hours or overnight to set.
The original recipe presents the terrine with a tomato vinaigrette. I made some egg mayonnaise – easier to transport.
Now and again I feel nostalgic for the “old” food. From my childhood, I often hanker for Vitello Tonnato. It is eaten cold, can be easily prepared beforehand and is a perfect dish as a starter or as a main meal. Left overs make a perfect panino.
There is an earlier post with the recipe for Vitello Tonnato, but this time I will let the photos guide the cooking.
I used a grirello – the eye round steak. The vegetables are onion, celery, carrots, garlic and herbs. I have tied the herbs (bay, rosemary, thyme) with string so that they can be easily removed at the end of cooking. Usually I like to include sage, but I have none growing at the moment.
I insert slices of garlic into the meat.
Some recipes indicate that the vegetables and meat can be boiled. I do not always repeat what my mother did but like her I lightly brown the vegetables and meat and this does add to the taste. I used a fish kettle for the cooking.
There is a bottle of white wine and some chicken stock ready to add. I added about 1 cup of wine and 2 cups of stock.
The liquid will add flavour and keep the meat moist. I always evaporate the juices at the end to concentrate the flavours of the sauce. Add seasoning.
Cook the meat to your liking. My mother always cooked it till it was very well done – that is how the older generation cooked meat in those times. My meat is lightly pink, but could have been rarer – on this occasion I had guests who prefer their meat well done.
Cool the meat and slice thinly.
Now for the sauce: egg mayonnaise, drained tuna (packed in oil), capers, anchovies and some of the vegetables that were used in the cooking of the meat. If the reduced sauce has cooled and jellied, add a little of the sauce.
Blend the ingredients. before adding the mayonnaise.
Add the mayonnaise and this is the sauce.
Build the layers – slices of meat, topped with the sauce. I made it the day before I served it. The sauce penetrates and softens the meat.
I have had modern versions of this dish in a number of places, both in Australia and Italy and the preference seems to be to place the sauce on top of some slices without covering each layer of meat.
I like the meat to be smothered with the tuna sauce.
Decorate it as you wish. This time was not my best, I used the left over carrots, topped them with strips of anchovies, stuffed olives cut in half and pink peppercorns. My mother probably would not have approved.
As a child, I lived in Trieste with my parents, and Ragusa, Catania and Augusta were the towns in Sicily where my Sicilian relatives lived. Both Trieste (located at the head of the Gulf of Trieste in the region Friuli-Venezia Giulia) and Sicily are at the extreme ends of Italy, and as you would expect, the cuisines are very different.
I grew up with both cuisines and appreciate them both for very different reasons.
Capuzi garbi (or crauti/krauti) is sauerkraut in Triestino (the Triestine dialect) and it is a very popular ingredient in Triestine cuisine especially when mixed in Gulash (made with pork or beef), or with a lump of smoked pork, or luganighe (Triestine) – salsicce di maiale in Italian, and pork sausages for us mere mortals in the English speaking world.
When you look at a map of Italy, it is easy to see why this part of Italy has common roots with the cooking of Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia and Istria.
I have German and Polish friends and they too are fond of sauerkraut, and like my relatives and friends from Trieste, they tend to overcook it; my mother also did this when she cooked capuzi garbi.
But as we know, cuisine evolves and some of us have taken on new methods of cooking traditional foods.
In my kitchen, I cook sauerkraut for about a quarter of the time as the traditional method and at times, I also like to add a little fresh cabbage to lighten the taste and to add a different texture. A little flour browned in a little oil is added to the sauerkraut towards the end of cooking, but not me, and unlike my Triestine contemporaries I also add caraway seeds, bay leaves and a dash of white wine.
The ingredients are: pork sausages, sauerkraut, bay leaves and caraway seeds. Onion, extra virgin olive oil and pepper (the sauerkraut could be sufficiently salty). Fresh cabbage and a dash of white wine are optional.
Drain the sauerkraut and squeeze out the moisture. Soften some onion in a little oil (in Trieste lard is also common and added to the oil).
Adding a little white or savoy cabbage is optional.
And with the cabbage also add the sauerkraut and the rest. A dash of white wine will keep it moist while it cooks.
Cover and cook for about 15- 20 minutes on low heat until the sausages are nearly cooked and the flavours have had a chance to meld.
Remove the sauerkraut and slightly brown the sausages – only for appearance.
A duck ragù is nothing new, but it always seems to be special. Pappardelle is the pasta of choice for game and duck.
I bought a whole duck, dismembered it and trimmed away the obvious fat. I cooked the duck for the ragù over 2 days because ducks can be very fatty and I wanted to remove some of the fat.
I left the cooked duck overnight and the liquid jellied (in the meantime the flavours also intensified) and the fat rose to the top making it easier for me to remove most of I with a spoon. I used some of the duck fat to sauté the mushrooms.
for the soffritto: 1 onion, 1 carrot,1 stalk of celery
fresh rosemary, bay leaves
½ cup of diced tomatoes or 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 cups dry red wine
3 cups chicken stock
salt and black pepper
250g mushrooms…on this occasion I used brown mushrooms.
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
fresh thyme and parsley
Wipe the duck pieces to dry them as much as possible.
Heat a heavy based casserole and over medium heat add the duck skin-side down and fry until browned and fat renders (6-9 minutes).
Drain most of the fat. Turn and fry until browned (2-3 minutes), then set aside.
To the same saucepan add onion and soften slightly before adding the carrot and celery and sauté until vegetables are tender (5-8 minutes).
Return the duck pieces to the pan, add the wine, stock, tomatoes, seasoning, bay leaves and rosemary.
Cover and cook slowly for about 1¾-2¼ hours, until the meat looks as it will be easy to separate from the bones.
Leave to cool. The fat will rise to the top making it easier to remove.
Reheat the duck braise very briefly, just sufficiently to melt the jelly.
Remove the duck pieces and set aside. When they are cool enough to handle remove the the skin and strip the meat from the bones in chunks. Discard herbs and the bones.
Drain the solids from the liquid and add these to the duck. Place the liquid from the braise (i.e. that is yet to be reduced) in a separate container.
Wipe the pan and use some of the fat to sauté the mushrooms and garlic. Add parsley and thyme and some seasoning.
Deglaze the pan using about a cup of liquid and evaporate most of it. Repeat with the left over liquid until it has reduced.
Add the duck, a couple of twists of nutmeg and the ragù is ready.
Combine the cooked pasta with the duck ragù and serve.
Sometimes, it is easier to tell a story and describe a recipe by photos.
Goat or kid if you can get it has been available for a while this season (Autumn in Australia). The mint on my balcony is doing well, celeriac is in season, the last of the red tomatoes also and there is a glut of carrots in Victoria at the moment. And all of these ingredients, cooked on low heat and for a long time made a fabulous ragout (ragù in Italian). On this occasion I used the braise as a pasta sauce. Good quality Pecorino cheese is a must.
Goat cut into cubes – you can tell that it is not an old goat by the pale colour of the meat. It is trimmed of fat.
The usual onion , part of the soffritto in most Italian soups and braises.
Add a chopped carrot and instead of celery I used some celeriac and some of the inner leaves of the celeriac.
Remove the soffritto, add a little more extra virgin olive oil and brown the meat.
Add the herbs and spices. Recognise them? Salt and pepper too.
A couple of red tomatoes.
Top with liquid. I added a mixture of chicken stock (always in my freezer) and some Marsala, to keep it in the Sicilian way of things. On another occasion I may add white wine or dry vermouth.
Cover the pan and braise slowly.
It does not look as good as it tasted…the perfume was fabulous too.
Serve with fresh mint leaves and grated Pecorino.
N.B. Real Pecorino is made from pecora (sheep)..i.e. sheep’s milk. I used a Pecorino Romano. See how white it is in colour?
In the 90s I frequently used earthenware cooking pots of various sizes (also called clay and terracotta pots) mainly for baking. Some had lids and were perfect for braises. Some were glazed, partially glazed, or unglazed and most of them were Italian. Some were French.
There are various names in Italian for t earthenware pots depending on the shape and function – for example a tegame di terracotta only has one handle and is in the shape of a frypan, a legumieria is for cooking legumi (vegetables and pulses) and therefore has a lid and a wide middle, a teglia is shallow and for baking and comes in oval, round, square or rectangular shapes. The pignatta (or pignata) with a lid is for braises.
I used to use my French pottery for terrines, pâtés, French onion soup, gratin potatoes (or other vegetables), cassoulet, and the like and use my Italian earthenware pots for baked fennel, Italian braises like chicken or capretto (kid) and potatoes, veal shanks, hare.
There was no mixing of cultures in my kitchen – French recipes and Italian recipes were segregated to the correct pot.
But, cooking is also influenced by trends and fashion, and using earthenware became passé. I gave many of my earthenware pots away and over the years the ones I have kept are hidden in various cupboards in my apartment.
Many of them are out of reach and unfortunately, as often happens ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
Recently I found my Römertopf and I have begun using it again and some of the other pots too. Some of you (the more mature people) may remember the Römertopf casseroles. The original casseroles are a German brand first introduced in 1967 and still being made. They are made of natural clay and are a terracotta colour, have a lid, are rectangular and unglazed. I saw some in Paris cook shops not very long ago and are probably making a comeback.
This is my second Römertopf. I ruined my first one by cooking a very strong flavoured, spicy pork dish with lentils and could not get the flavour or smell out – everything I cooked tasted the same. Earthenware, especially the unglazed or partly glazed ones are porous and therefore the clay will absorb the flavours and fats of whatever you cook in them. it is a good idea to use one pot for similar flavored dishes or to have several pots as I indicated at the beginning of this post.
When it comes to washing earthenware I only use hot water and a brush – no soaking or detergents as they too can be absorbed. Clay retains water so I also allow the pots to dry completely before I store them to prevent mold from forming on the surface.
Earthenware will break with sudden changes in temperature; moving a hot pot from the stove or oven and placing it directly onto a cold surface is not a good idea. Nor is putting hot liquid or ingredients into a cold pot or cold into a hot pot.
They can be used in the oven or microwave and some can be used on the stove especially when a heat diffuser / simmer mat is used to help distribute the heat and cook on a slow simmer. My modern tajine is made of clay and obviously has been especially treated so that I can use this in the oven as well as the stove.
I now use my re- discovered Römertopf just for baking chicken. Earthenware helps to ensure that food is cooked evenly and maintains heat for a long time; the pot seals in moisture and the flavors of a dish and nutrients are preserved. My oven remains clean, nothing burns, nothing overflows.
The procedure for using the Römertopf is simple: the room temperature/ cold ingredients are placed into the cold Römertopf that has been soaked in water. It is then placed into a cold oven …no monitoring until the food is cooked.
Many ancient cultures including ancient Romans cooked in earthenware pots with lids by placing them in the glowing ashes of an open fire and the Römertopf is said to have been based on these Roman principles of cooking. Many cultures over the centuries have used this method of cooking in the ashes or over the ashes in fireplaces and chimneys.
There are many types of earthenware pots and each differ by the kind of clay that is used, the way it’s made, the shape, how it’s fired. The pots also come under different names, depending on and country of origin. For example the most common are the Moroccan tajines, the Provençal daubieres, Spanish cazuelas and the Colombian La Chamba pots.
I bought my first La Chamba pots from Oxfam in Adelaide about 30 years ago. They are a deep black colour and have a lustrous appearance. Recently I have seen many La Chamba pots in different shapes and sized in Australia.
Most Asian countries have different techniques of cooking food in clay and some of them require soaking (like the Römertopf) before cooking. I always soak (submerge) all of my earthenware pots in water (from cold water tap) for at least 20 minutes.
CHICKEN COOKED IN THE RÖMERTOPF
Whole chicken – free range, preferably organic. Remove any obvious fat. Sometimes I may place into the cavity one of the following: a whole onion or lemon, 2-3 whole garlic cloves or some herbs.
Herbs – any of the following but not too many as the flavours intensify and will be absorbed into the clay: rosemary, thyme, tarragon, bay, parsley or sage. Preferably, I place the herbs under the skin of the chicken.
Salt and pepper, rub inside and outside of chicken.
Vegetables – sometimes I may place vegetables under the chicken: whole mushrooms, potatoes, carrots, celery.
Do not preheat oven.
Soak whole Römertopf (top and bottom) in cold water for 15-20 minutes or follow soaking directions provided with the clay pot.
Pat dry chicken and sprinkle salt and pepper inside and outside the cavity. Place chicken breast side up and fill cavity of chicken any of the ingredients I have mentioned above. You will notice that I do not use strong flavours.
Place a few vegetables on the bottom of the chicken. There is no need to use vegetables unless you wish, but if you do you will taste the natural flavours of the vegetables – nice.
Cover the Römertopf and place in a cold oven.
Turn oven to 220C and bake 90 minutes. The chicken will be golden but if you wish to brown it further, remove the top during the last 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and place it on a towel or mat – nothing cold to avoid cracking. Food can be served from the pot.
This type of cooking will not taste bland, but I always find a reason to accompany it with a sauce…. the last sauce was one made with the remaining nettles growing on my balcony, and walnuts, but at other times there have been other sauces.
Walnuts and nettles sauce
Softened nettles or use spinach (2 tablespoons), parsley (1 tablespoon), walnuts (2 tablespoons), garlic (1 clove), salt, pepper to taste.
A dash of each of the following: extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and sufficient chicken stock (the juices from the chicken) to make the sauce smooth and creamy.
Hare seem hard to come by and most of the time I have to make do with rabbit, however the way I cook rabbit is the same as when I cook hare.
I always marinade the rabbit before I cook it, perhaps for a shorter time, and the cooking time is reduced significantly especially for farmed rabbits.
I have recipes on the blog for cooking rabbit and hare and most of the recipes for cooking chicken can also be used to cook rabbit.
This time I took more photos while I was cooking the rabbit with cloves, cinnamon and red wine – you will recognize spices that are characteristic of some Sicilian cooking due to significant influences from the Arabs.
Pino Correnti in his book IL Libro D’oro della Cucina e dei vini do Sicilia calls this recipe CONIGLIO (rabbit) DA (from) LICODIA EUBEA
I have driven through Licodia Eubea on my way from Piazza Armerina to Calatagirone and then Ragusa but did not take any photos. I have photos from nearby Grammichele with its hexagonal shaped piazza in front of the main church. There is a large unusual sculpture in the middle that is one of the largest sundial in the world. Like in Licodia Eubea there seem to be very few people around and it appeared that we had the town to ourselves.