Upon the day I was to arrive home from apartment sitting we were having a long family lunch so we can all catch up around a table, talk and enjoy good food.
I wanted, as per usual, to cook with a meat I have not used before but in particular some sort of game. I was tossing up between Quail, Duck and Rabbit when my choice was made for me. I walked into Black Bull Butchery, Potts Point. I had had duck the night before for dinner so I was not too interested in cooking with it so soon. So my choices narrowed. I walked to the fridge where the game was kept. No rabbit. No Quail. I inquired. There was quail available in the freezer at the back and were frozen in packs of two OR the butcher had just gotten in a fresh whole rabbit that day that he was happy to prepare for me however I would have liked it. Now really the choice stops here, fresh produce or frozen meat.
Even though I was quite set on cooking quail wrapped in vine leaves on a rocket salad with feta and a pomegranate sauce, and had gone into Fratelli Fresh for a week straight asking when they were getting pomegranates in again, I was very excited that I was given such a piece of game. I could do anything with it, stew it, grill it, slow roast it, stuff it, roll it.........
I needed some inspiration so I went over to the bookshop and looked through a few Italian cookbooks. As it was a warm summers day I did not want to make a stew or a roast so I was immediately limiting my palate of styles. I came across a Ligurian recipe for a stuffed and rolled whole rabbit which was to be poached and then pan fried.
This seemed very interesting and had scope to be played with a bit. So I walked back to the butcher and asked him to de-bone and butterfly the rabbit for me. Once done I had to go shopping for ingredients. I remember the first time I had rabbit it was rolled into the shape of a cigar and wrapped in filo pastry. Although a very strong flavoured meat I fell in love with its earthy characteristics and how well it worked with the crisp and buttery filo, so I wanted to integrate this into the recipe.
The stuffing was made of pistachio's, parsley, lemon thyme and garlic. I ground it up in the mortar and pestle and laid out my beautiful rabbit. I smeared the stuffing all over the meat and then rolled it as tightly as I could trying not to let it unroll. I then wrapped it in this strips of pancetta and tied it tightly with butchers string. At this point I was supposed to poach it but I was wear of poaching the pancetta and thought it to be silly to add the pancetta after poaching as it would be very fiddly to attached so I instead wrapped the whole roll in filo pastry, which were only lightly oiled as the fat from the pancetta would seep through whilst I baked the whole log.
I added diced baby fennel to the baking dish as this is a vegetable which works excellently with game due to its strong flavours which some find unattractable whilst raw, but when roasted they soften slightly and become sweeter and not so strong in aniseed.
Once baked I cut the log into slices and then pulled out the string. I actually forgot about the filo part of my plan while tying, but that is ok, it was easily fixed. This was the end result. I will admit that due to not being used to a fan forced oven I might have slightly overcooked the meat, which was not as soft as I imagined, but still very tender and with an amazing flavour, not too strong as it was not a wild rabbit...........but possibly comparable to chicken (Jaime Oliver's words, not mine)