Rabbit Stew

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My next-door neighbour rang the other day, to enquire as to whether I might like a rabbit. A recently shot rabbit. I headed next door somewhat dubiously, worried about what blood-splattered scene might await me. But I was presented, very casually, with a freezer bag containing said rabbit. Minus fur, skin, head and guts, but with the heart, lungs and ribcage still left in ‘for making stock’. And still very much looking like a rabbit.

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Having seen the slightly horrified look on my face, my neighbour suggested that he might show me how to joint the poor little thing. I retained minimal amount of the information, as I was still getting over the shock of there now being two dead rabbits in the kitchen. So I took the one that had been jointed for me to cook right away, and stowing the other (whole) rabbit hurriedly in the freezer, to worry about some other time.

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Rabbit doesn’t have much meat on it, so if you add the saddle too, there is more to pick at. I just chucked the lot in, along with some bacon to bulk it out. Rabbit tastes a little like chicken crossed with lamb- it’s got a rich, meaty flavour that goes well with cider. Some recipes suggest red wine, which you can use instead if you want a more hearty affair. But use some booze please, it’s getting close to winter after all.

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Pork Belly with Fennel Seeds and Cider Gravy

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A few weeks ago I went to Exeter Food Festival. I skipped lunch in order to fit in about 5 meals’ worth of free samples from all the food stands – even visiting some stalls twice and getting an irritable ‘Hello AGAIN’.  After I’d had my fill of chutney on tiny bits of bread, I tried to find the beer tent and ended up inadvertently wandering into a cookery demonstration.

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The demonstration was by Tom Cull of Tom’s Pies (www.toms-pies.co.uk). One of the main motivations for me visiting the festival was to have one of these pies – I had a lamb, chickpea and chorizo one last year that’s been on my mind ever since.

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But instead of giving away the recipe for this pie (understandable, but disappointing), Tom was cooking pork belly. As chefs love to tell you, pork belly is apparently a very underrated cut of meat. But it seems to be popping up everywhere these days- and every time I’ve had it it’s been delicious. There was a ‘here’s one I made earlier’ moment at the end of the demonstration, and Tom cut up the pork belly for the people in the audience who could fight their way to the front of the mob first.

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In this recipe, the pork is rubbed with a mixture of fennel seeds, mustard and about a gazillion other things, then perched on top of some vegetables and slow cooked. This gives a lovely crackly skin and very tender meat- and you’re left with dark sticky goo underneath that forms the base of the intense cider gravy.

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