Rabbit and red pepper stew

Having cooked Bambi, it seemed only right to go on and cook Thumper. Apologies in advance to those with a sensitive disposition as regards bunny-munching.

I grew up eating a lot of rabbit, as it was cheap, lean and readily available. I must have had some qualms of conscience at one point (probably around the time I acquired a friend with a pet rabbit), as I still remember my mum telling me, diplomatically if slightly inaccurately, that there were rabbits for petting and rabbits for eating, and that they weren’t the same thing. My childhood scruples were evidently appeased, as I went on to consume many happy bowlfuls of my mum’s standard rabbit stew, in which the beastie is simmered with onion, bacon and several sliced desert apples. It’s a very good very of doing it, especially if you add a good slug of cider to the stock and finish it with a touch of cream.

I, however, have a deep and abiding love for all things tomatoey, and decided to come up with a tomato-based version of my mum’s classic. This is another of the game-and-chorizo combinations: I know we’ve just had one of these, but the result here is very different from the venison stew, partly because of the different type of chorizo used, and partly because of the way the tomatoes and peppers cook down into a bright, sweet sauce, as opposed to the smokey, dark mushroom and stout one.

This should serve four people generously, particularly if the butcher has jointed the saddle into three pieces, as mine did.

  • One rabbit, jointed (the butcher should do this for you if you ask).
  • Two small “cooking” chorizo sausages, about 200 g, sliced.
  • 500 g cherry tomatoes. I used one 400 g tin, and 100 g of fresh tomatoes.
  • One large red onion, sliced.
  • Two large red peppers, cut into strips.
  • 1-2 tsp smoked sweet paprika.
  • A generous handful of chopped fresh parsley.

Wash the jointed rabbit in cold water; if there is still quite a bit of blood in the meat, you may want to leave it to soak in a sinkful of water for a little while.

Dry the rabbit pieces; heat some oil in a large pot and brown the rabbit in batches. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the onions and pepper to the pan, and fry them over a medium to low heat until they have softened and the peppers have sweetened. Add the chorizo and paprika and continue to cook. The contents of the pan should start to turn a vibrant orangey-red colour and will smell delicious, though you may find you steam up your camera lens if you take a photograph at this point.

After the sausage and vegetables have cooked for a few minutes, return the rabbit to the pan and then add the tomatoes. For purely personal aesthetic reasons, I like to squash the cherry tomatoes in one hand to break them open, rather than slicing them in half. Well, I say it’s for aesthetic reasons (they do tend to hold their shape more this way), but if I’m honest, it’s probably also something to do with the fact that I can’t be bothered to cut them all up. I’m not good at the fiddly aspects of cooking.

Bring the stew to the boil, then cover and simmer for an hour or so. Just before you are ready to serve it, add the parsley. We ate this with mashed potatoes and kale, for extra cold-weather comfort-value. Other good accompaniments would be purple sprouting broccoli (like the kale, it balances out the sweetness of the stew) and polenta (which would have the requisite wintry stodginess).

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