Sunday, July 21, 2013

Rabbit Ragoût with Pan Fried Gnocchi and Green Olive Tapenade

I heart French food. 

It's actually a cuisine that I've always been particularly motivated to cook at home. Why? Because I love the food so much but it almost seems like everywhere that serves French food in Melbourne is too expensive for me to enjoy, as often as I'd like to. I don't think French food needs to be as complex as what you'd get at many French restaurants in Australia. I know that for myself, I was actually surprised by how simple/delicious it was to make it at home. Take for example the Beaurre Blanc Sauce (French butter sauce) and Creme Brulee recipe that I've shared in the past.

I haven't cooked French in a while so I was especially thrilled when we decided to have a French potluck at Agnes' house on Bastille Day last week.

I immediately turned to this cookbook that I received from my dear friend Jade on my 21st a couple of years ago. There's so many great French bistro recipes in there that I've been meaning to try and this recipe was definitely one of them. 

It looked like a dish that I would actually pay to eat at a restaurant and enjoy. Oh and of course, the rabbit. I've only had them about a handful of times so I thought it'd be interesting to cook it at home for the first time. And even though there were quite a few of them, but the steps were rather straightforward... Sweet. 

I won't lie by saying it was a quick dish to make, because it wasn't. But I do like to cook something completely different than what I normally would, despite taking longer than usual. And cooking for people whose company you enjoy is always a great excuse/motivator to provide that extra labour of love in the kitchen. Without that, you would just be stuck with cooking the same, old, boring thing every day like me, wouldn't you?

The green olive tapenade was definitely a great addition to the dish

As for the taste, I thought it was pretty delicious and well worth the hard work. Even though the rabbit, on its own, was a very tasteless meat, but I was surprised by how nice the dish tasted overall. The sauce was thick and flavourful and the rabbit was more tender than I thought. Plus, I absolutely LOVE the dollops of Green Olive Tapenade in the dish. Completely lifts the whole dish and gives it an interesting twist and finish to each bite. Completes the dish and really recommend you make it too.

So, if you've got an occasion coming up and looking for a recipe that's slightly out of the ordinary to try, I'd definitely suggest you give this a go. It's a tasty dish and fun to serve rabbit to your friends because it's different for a change. My advice is that if you're going to make this dish, make a big portion of it like I did, since you're going through all the effort anyway.

Anyway, hope you enjoy and wishing all of you a smashing start to the week! =)


Rabbit Ragoût with Pan Fried Gnocchi and Green Olive Tapenade
(serves 8, adapted from the book "Must Eat by Russell Blaikie")


For the Rabbit Ragoût:

5 tbsp olive oil
2 whole rabbits (about 750g each) *
2 onions (chopped)
5 gloves of garlic (minced)
2 celery sticks (chopped)
2 large carrots (chopped)
5 sprigs of thyme
2 sprigs of rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 tsp white peppercorns
500ml white wine
700g truss tomatoes (chopped)
2 litres chicken stock

* Note: Get the butcher to cut to joints for you

For the Pan Fried Gnocchi:

6 tbsp butter
2 packets of gnocchi (500g each)
3 large tomatoes (deseeded and diced)
Freshly ground salt and pepper
Parsley to garnish

Photo taken from my Instagram (@winceeee)

For the Green Olive Tapenade:

15g salted capers
200g green olives (pitted)
40g cornichons
1 tbsp chopped parlsey
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
50ml extra virgin olive oil
1 hard boiled egg (peeled)
Freshly ground black pepper

All ingredients readily accessible at most delis. I got all these from Victoria Market


1. To make the rabbit ragoût, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan/dutch oven and sear the rabbit in batches until golden on both sides. Remove.

2. Drop in the onion, garlic, celery, carrot, herbs, peppercorns and saute for 5 minutes. Add the wine, increase the heat and cook for 5 minutes.

3. Add in the tomato and chicken stock. Once boiling, return rabbit to the pot, bring heat to low and allow to simmer (covered) for 2 hours.

4. Remove the rabbit and allow to cool. Strain the cooking liquid, separating it from the vegetables. 

5. Pick out as much of the peppercorns and herbs as you can from the vegetables and blitz in a food processor to a fine puree. Place the liquid back into a pot and reduce on a stove on medium - high heat until liquid is thickened and reduces by slightly more than half. Switch off heat.

6. Shred the rabbit meat from the bones with your fingers. Meat attached to the outer epidermal skin of the rabbit may be discarded as it can be quite tough. Place shredded meat back into the pot with the reduced/thickened liquid and set aside until ready. 

7. To make the tapenade, soak the salted capers for 30 minutes in warm water. Rise in cold water and drain.

8. Combine all ingredients (except the egg) into a food processor and blitz until well combined. Remove and place into a bowl.

9. Press the egg through a mesh sieve into the bowl of tapenade and stir through to combine. Season with black pepper to taste. Reserve in refrigerator until needed.

10. Heat up a large saucepan and add the butter. Once melted, add the gnocchi and fry in batches until golden and crisp on both sides. Set aside in a large tray/pot.

11. Stir through the gnocchi with the diced tomatoes and pureed vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to large pasta bowls or individual plates.

12. Spoon the rabbit and sauce on each bowl/plate. Top with a few dollops of green olive tapenade and garnish with fresh parsley. Serve warm.

A lengthy recipe but well worth the effort. Great, tasty dish to share with friends on a special occasion. 


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