Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Rabbit Stew and Dumplings (or not)


This recipe has stirred up a childhood memory of mine:
My brother wanted a rabbit.  He had made the usual promises to ‘look after it’ – feed it, clean it out, - as you do, so Gran took him to a local farmer and rabbit breeder to choose one. 
 He brought home a lovely doe, white with brown markings, and kept his promise to look after her. What he hadn’t known though, was that she was pregnant and shortly after her arrival, there was soon a writhing nest of fluffiness at the back of her hutch.  She produced eight beautiful kittens (yes, baby bunnies are called kittens) and most of them found homes.

 One lunch-time, when Dad said all the rabbits had now gone and just mother rabbit (Mabel) was left, Mum had made stew for dinner. It smelt delicious and Mum began to serve it with new potatoes and green beans - fresh from the garden. I looked at my plate, and then at Mum and asked what kind of stew it was, to be told, as I had feared, ‘Rabbit Stew’. I said I wasn’t hungry and would just have the vegetables, but  my brother declared:

            “It was my rabbit, so I want the most!” – which he has never been allowed to forget.

 As Mabel was thereafter a solitary soul, she never did meet the buck of her dreams (again) and remained a celebate rabbit for the rest of her life - for which I actually think she was grateful. My brother discovered football so Mabel became mine and lived out her days feasting on dandelions and lettuce.
Rabbit Stew (or not) and dumplings at FancyPans
Colder days at FancyPans call for warm, comforting dishes and chef decided Rabbit Stew would be served. If you can't get  here to try it, you can have a go at making it yourself.

To make (Rabbit) Stew, you will need a casserole dish large enough to contain the ingredients, leaving three to four inches between the stew and the lid.

Take the pieces of rabbit (or not – chicken is a good substitute, or you can use any meat, beef, lamb – but then it becomes more of a hot-pot – or a selection of root-vegetables like swede, parsnip, sweet-potato, if you prefer a meat-less treat) and coat them in seasoned flour.

Melt a good scoop of dripping in a large casserole dish (or use vegetable oil if preferred) and fry the meat to seal it.  Remove from the dish for a moment whilst you chop an onion and fry that until it is soft (but not brown). Put the meat back into the pan (or vegetables if you are no carnivore) and add two sliced carrots and a couple of sticks of chopped celery.

You then need to add enough stock to cover the meat and veg – you can either buy stock or use stock-cubes and make the correct quantity up with boiling water. Chicken stock is best, (or vegetable if you are veggie - obviously). Add a few sprigs of thyme, put the lid on and pop it into the oven at around 160C for about an hour-and-a-half.

Whilst the casserole is simmering, make your dumplings:

Take 4oz self-raising flour (remember this is an old recipe when pounds and ounces were used), add 4oz suet  (you can get vegetarian suet too)  and season well (a good pinch of salt does the trick). At this point, you can add some chopped thyme if you would like ‘herby dumplings’.  Add about five tablespoons-full of cold water and bring the mixture together with your (clean) fingers. It needs to be a firm, but pliable, dough. Split the mix into eight and make each piece into a ball.  After the casserole has been in the oven for about an hour add the dumplings and replace the lid so that they cook in the steam as they sit on top of the stew – about twenty – thirty minutes from when you would like to eat it.

Serve with potatoes of choice (new, mashed, roasted) and some green vegetables (cabbage, green beans).

Enjoy.      


Ingredient recap:

For the stew:

Prepared rabbit (or chicken, beef, lamb or root vegetables)

Dripping (or vegetable oil)

2 large carrots – sliced

1 large-ish onion – sliced

2 sticks of celery – de-stringed and chopped

Stock (chicken or vegetable)

Chopped thyme (or a few sprigs of thyme tied together for easy removal)


For the Dumplings:

4 oz self-raising flour

4 oz suet

Salt – good pinch

5 tablespoons of cold water

(chopped herbs if desired)


© Karen Ette 2014

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