When I told my mum about this, she said "Poor poor Mr Wabs". I'm sure she'll be mortified when she reads this and discovers that I have now revealed to the world her fond nickname for our pet rabbit. I wanted to call him 'Bramble', but Mr Wabs came about and the name stuck. My dad maintains that he was actually a wild rabbit, and I have to say he did show a certain propensity towards feral behaviour at times. We used to let him loose in the kitchen and like a cat he'd come and sit on your lap and let you stroke him - when he wasn't chewing through the oven cable or attempting to copulate with a stuffed toy rabbit that we bought him for 'company'. I still have fond memories of the dear little creature, but I also have an irresistible attraction towards cooking with slightly more unusual ingredients, and unfortunately the latter usually wins. Not that rabbit is a particularly unusual ingredient: they eat it all the time in Europe, where the rabbit is thought of more as food than as furry plaything. Here, however, a lot of people share my mother's horror at the notion of becoming a literal bunny-boiler.
However sweet they look bobbing around in a field, their little furry tails waggling in the air, rabbits are a pest. It is for this reason that I don't feel too much guilt about eating them. That and they're tasty, and still a better option ethically than mass-produced chicken. They do taste similar, and this recipe could easily be adapted to use chicken, should you not want to consign dear Mr Wabs to the pot.
It's taken from my beloved game cookbook, and caught my eye because I always find it interesting to adapt well-known recipe ideas to suit under-used game; pheasant tagine, for instance, or venison bolognaise. A rabbit curry sounded rather intriguing; I figured it would have the same kind of flavour as a chicken curry, but with the added depth that you'd get if you used thighs, say, instead of breast meat.
It's a Thai yellow curry, which differs from the standard Thai curry in that it doesn't use coconut milk. Instead, the spice paste is boiled in stock to make the sauce, then the meat is added. I changed the recipe a bit in that it said to use rabbit shoulders; I used a whole rabbit, picked the meat off the bones then returned it to the sauce. I think it's nicer that way than having to pick it apart yourself while still trying to get a good forkful of rice in there. You can use a ready-made spice paste, but I rather enjoy making my own - the smell as you grind all those spices (turmeric, ginger, chilli, lemongrass, coriander, shallot...) together in a pestle and mortar is amazing. If you have a good food processor, you can use that - you'll get a finer paste - but mine isn't brilliant so I did it the difficult way.
It tastes very nice indeed. The meaty rabbit with the tangy flavours of lime, lemongrass, coriander, chilli and ginger is a great combination, and even better with the addition of some greens stirred into the curry at the end to provide a bit of crunchy texture. It's at once familiar but slightly unusual because of the rabbit meat, and - a bonus - very easy to make. If you've never cooked rabbit before, this would be a good introduction.
Thai rabbit curry (serves 4):
For the spice paste:
1 red chilli, finely chopped (taste to see how hot your chillis are, and add more if you like it spicy)
1/4 tbsp sea salt
1 stalk lemongrass, finely chopped
2 tbsp coriander roots, chopped
1 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp shallots, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
600ml chicken stock
1/2 tsp caster sugar
2 tbsp Thai fish sauce
1 rabbit, jointed into eight pieces
4 bunches of pak choi
Make the paste - crush all the ingredients together using a pestle and mortar, making sure each one is well crushed before adding the next, or use a food processor.
Bring the stock to the boil in a large sauce pan and add the sugar and fish sauce. Stir in 3 tbsp of the paste until it has dissolved. Taste the stock - if you want it spicier, add more paste. (I used the entire quantity, because I love Asian aromatics and because my chillies were pathetic).
Add the rabbit, bring to the boil then turn down to a low simmer. Cover with a lid and cook for about an hour and a half. Remove the meat to a chopping board or plate.
Chop the pak choi stalks into shreds and add them to the curry to soften. When the rabbit has cooled enough to handle, pick the meat from the bones and return to the pan. Careful with the ribs - they snap off very easily without you realising, and you don't really want bones in there. At the last minute, add the leaves of the pak choi to the pan to wilt.
Taste the sauce - you might need some more fish sauce, or lime juice. Serve in bowls with plain white rice, a big sprinkling of fresh coriander, garnished with half a lime to squeeze over.
(Adapted from Game: A Cookbook, by Trish Hilferty and Tom Norrington-Davies)