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I have long thought that rabbit should be more popular in England than it actually is. Our European counterparts seemingly cannot get enough of them whilst we prefer to stick to tried and trusted chicken. This hasn’t always been the case, in days gone by rabbit was very popular among the working classes who didn’t view them as a ‘fluffy bunny’ but more as a cheap (especially if poached) meal for the family.

Rabbit with Lemon and Rosemary
Another reason for its decline in popularity is probably due to people’s lack of knowledge about cooking them. They are not the easiest of meats to cook, with their low fat content they dry out easily so the options for cooking become limited.

Once a rabbit has been skinned there isn’t a great deal to look at, particularly a wild one, farmed rabbits which are bred for their size weigh more but taste of little so it’s a matter of choice. You are most likely to buy rabbit skinned and headed and, if from a supermarket ready jointed. Try to avoid the ready jointed rabbit because it limits your options when it comes to cooking. The meat from a rabbit comes from the saddle and the two back legs, I use the front legs for cooking slowly in goose fat until crisp for a garnish or reserved for a stock or gravy as the meat content is negligible. The back legs and saddle can be jointed for a stew or the fillets can be removed from the bone and quickly fried to medium rare for use in a salad or pasta dish.

Take a sharp knife and cut through the muscle, which attaches the legs to the hips and the shoulders, the legs can be cut in half if desired. There are two flaps of meat attached to the belly, which are easily trimmed to leave the saddle, which can be jointed or removed as a long fillet. When cooking rabbit it is important to incorporate some fat into the cooking, be it butter, goose fat or streaky bacon because the flesh needs some protection and the retention of moisture in the meat is vital. I love to cook rabbit with Spanish flavours, pieces of the jointed meats tossed in seasoned flour and fried in olive oil and garlic until well browned, moistened with white wine and flavoured with sage or rosemary and a few olives. Add a slug of soaked saffron, a sprinkling of Spanish paprika and some fresh chicken stock and cook slowly until tender and the stock has reduced. Serve with some rice cooked in chicken stock and a wedge of lemon.

Content and picture © Miles Collins