We are Matt and Lentil, and we believe that health and happiness come from real, traditional food, a warm home, and a mastery of life’s fundamentals.
This really has to be the best rabbit dish we have ever eaten, and it holds so many great memories for us. We were originally this recipe by a couple, Gay and Kathy, in New Zealand, in exchange for homemade hazelnut cookies. Not only did Gay and Kathy give us the handwritten recipe, but they also gave us all of the ingredients, including a rabbit they had hunted themselves. It was one of the most thoughtful things we have ever been given. We then traded the whole experience of this dish—from hunting and preparing the rabbit to cooking it— for a photographic print with one of our great friends (and photographer of our book), Shantanu. Where we live, rabbits are plentiful and considered a pest, so it's a very sustainable source of meat. Wild rabbit is quite often available at good butchers; farmed rabbit is even more common.
1 large onion, diced
extra-virgin olive oil
2 celery stalks including tops, diced
2 carrots, diced
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chili flakes or 1 dried chili
2 cups passata
1 cup red wine
3 thyme sprigs, leaves picked
5 rosemary sprigs, leaves picked and finely chopped
1 bunch of parsley, stalks and all, finely chopped, plus extra to serve
1 cup brined olives, pitted
1 tablespoon butter
1 rabbit, halved or quartered to fit in the pot
ground black pepper
6 cups cooked polenta
- Preheat the oven to 360°F.
- In a large, deep frying pan, sauté the bacon and onion in a little oil until the onion is soft. Add the celery, carrot, garlic, and chili, and sauté until just browned (around 10–15 minutes). Add the passata, wine, herbs, olives, and 1 cup of water, and simmer for 5–10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter in a cast-iron pot over a medium heat and brown the rabbit for 2–3 minutes on each side. Pour the sauce over the rabbit, season with salt and pepper, and give the pot a little shake to settle everything. Cover and place in the oven. Reduce the temperature to 300°F and cook for 2½ hours.
- Turn the oven off, but leave the pot in the oven so the stew poaches for 2–4 more hours (4 hours is best).
- Prepare the polenta 30 minutes before you are ready to serve. Warm the stew on the stove.
- Place the polenta in bowls, top with the rabbit stew and sprinkle extra parsley on top.
For a dairy-free version of this recipe, replace the butter with extra-virgin olive oil.
Made it? Tell us about it–