Philippa Vine’s recipes for March

If, like me, you prepare a lot of pork, beef and chicken, the firm, meaty flesh and subtle, gamey flavour of rabbit can bring an interesting change of flavour to your cooking.

Not everyone is fan of the distinctive aroma of wild rabbit so to make this recipe I sent my son out on a productive outing with his gun. He was under strict instructions to paunch and skin any rabbits outside, and when they were ready for the oven they were allowed in the kitchen.

Around these parts, due to a combination of flooding and a virulent strain of myxomatosis, the rabbits aren’t as plentiful as usual. But if you can get hold of one, this recipe produces some really interesting flavours by stuffing the rabbit meat with pistachio nuts and pancetta.

The latter keeps the rabbit moist, but if you cannot find pancetta then thin streaky bacon will do.

The boning is fiddly, but it does pay off with the presentation, and there are no bones to mess around with while eating.

The creamed cabbage is delicious and really complements the rabbit. It cooks in seconds, but needs to be watched to get it just right or it can burn.

And finally, the recipe below for apple gingerbread cake was taken from the original Farmers Weekly cookbook, which was published in 1935, and consisted of readers’ recipes.

In a “what goes around, comes around” idea, I thought it would be nice to occasionally resurrect one of these recipes.

While I have adapted this one by using uncooked apple in the mixture, the original was submitted by Miss Mary MacDonald of Inverness-shire. Thank you Mary.

Pistachio Stuffed Rabbit in Pancetta

Serves 2

  • 1 medium-sized rabbit
  • 8 slices of pancetta

For the stuffing:

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 5 sage leaves
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • ½ red pepper, finely diced
  • 50g (2oz) fresh breadcrumbs
  • 50g (2oz) minced pork
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 25g (1oz) pistachios
  • 10g (½oz) butter

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/ gas 4. Chop the rabbit in half and put aside the top half. Bone out the legs and the loin; keeping the leg meat joined to the loin.

Melt the butter and sweat the onion, garlic and pepper until soft. Chop the herbs and stir them in and set aside.

When cool mix together with the breadcrumbs, minced pork and pistachios. Season with salt and pepper.

Lay the two boned joints of rabbit on to your work surface. Make a sausage with half the stuffing and place it on the leg meat roughly where the bone was removed. Fold the loin piece over the stuffing to form a parcel and turn it over. Repeat with the other leg.

Lay four slices of pancetta over each parcel, overlapping each slice slightly and tucking the ends underneath.

Place on an oiled baking sheet and brush the pancetta with a little oil. Place in the oven and roast for 25-30mins. Allow to rest in a warm place before carving.

Creamed Cabbage

Serves 2

  • 1 medium tender heart cabbage
  • 2 carrots
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Nutmeg
  • 25g (1oz) butter
  • 100ml double cream

Remove any coarse outer leaves and cut the cabbage in quarters lengthways. Remove the core. Finely shred the cabbage and place in a shallow pan.

Peel and grate the carrot and place it in the pan with the cabbage.

Season with the salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Add the butter and one tablespoon of water.

Put a lid over the pan and place it on a very high heat.

When you see lots of steam under the lid, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cream. Replace the lid.

Apple Gingerbread with Cinnamon Icing

Makes 1 loafcake

  • 125g (4½oz) Bramley apple (total weight peeled, corked and diced)
  • 75g (3oz) soft brown sugar
  • 110g (4oz) golden syrup
  • 75g (3oz) butter
  • 175g (6oz) self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 egg

For the icing:

  • 175g (6oz) icing sugar
  • 1 level teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2-3 tablespoons boiling water

Preheat the oven to 160C/315F/gas 2-3.

Put the golden syrup in a pan with the butter and sugar. Dissolve slowly over heat and then leave to cool. Sift the flour into a basin with the ginger and cloves. Make a well in the centre and add the egg, along with the sugar and butter mixture.

When it is all well mixed, fold in the apple and turn it into a well-greased rectangular tin and bake for 50mins to one hour.

When cooked, allow it to stand before removing from the tin.

For this icing, sieve the icing sugar and add the cinnamon. Add enough water to make a thick icing and spread it over the cooled gingerbread. Allow to set.

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