After a memorable first quail season with his GSP Archie, Daniel Airo-Farulla puts on his chef hat to prepare a dish that celebrates a more distant memory.
Daniel learned to hunt with his grandfather and most often, they went after rabbits.
As an executive chef in Melbourne he embraces his Italian heritage and braised rabbit remains one of his signature dishes.
“It is a connection to our past in a way, nothing was ever wasted, what we shot was food for the table,” he said.
“A lot of younger people nowadays are appreciating it more, people search for game meat on the menu because you don’t see it there often.”
Daniel’s main tip for rabbit is to cook it either a little or a lot.
“If you are going to braise meat you either get it to where it is just cooked or you go past the point where the meat starts to tighten up again and it then needs an hour or two to slowly break down in the cooking.”
“That is the trick with game meats, there is no middle ground.”
“This recipe is something I’m confident in cooking, I’ve done it for so many years. It is quite a mild flavour in the rabbit because you have the sweet and sour with it.
“The Italian name is agrodolce which translates as sour and sweet, it is hints of vinegar and a little hint of sweetness from some brown sugar and the sultanas you put in.”
Braised Wild Rabbit
2 wild rabbits
2 lt water
Juice of 1 lemon
6 thyme sprigs
6 bay leaves
2 sprigs rosemary
½ bunch sage, chopped
½ bunch chopped parsley
100 ml olive oil
½ cup plain flour
100 ml Extra virgin olive oil for frying
1 leek, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
6 kipfler potatoes cut in ¼
300 ml chicken stock
100 ml white wine
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons pinenuts
3 tablespoons sultanas
3 tablespoons brown sugar
Begin by breaking down the whole rabbit into pieces and soaking them in the water and lemon juice, preferably over night or at least 2 hours prior. This will help to remove some of the gamey flavour and also helps to tenderise the meat.
In a large bowl mix the herbs, chilli and oil, adding the salt and pepper.
Drain off the rabbit pieces and lightly dust them with the flour.
In a large heavy based saucepan heat half of the oil and fry the rabbit pieces until golden. Return these pieces to the bowl with the herb marinade.
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
In an oven proof casserole pot heat the remaining oil and fry the onion, leek and garlic until golden. Add the celery and carrots and stir through for a few minutes. Add the potatoes and shallots and cook for a further couple of minutes to allow some colour.
Finally add the rabbit, with all the marinade, followed by the remaining ingredients. The pieces of rabbit should be slightly submerged in the liquid.
Cover the pot with a lid and bake for 1–1½ hours or until tender.
Matt Fowles wine match
All Saints Estate Marsanne — Family Cellar 2015.
Marsanne is native to France, but has been growing in Victoria since the 1860s.
While it is often blended with Roussanne, the All Saints Family Cellar Marsanne is a great example of what this variety can do all by itself.
From vines that are 50 years old, this wine has great intensity and structure, and is a natural fit with food.
The team at All Saints make a style which has more texture and richness through maturation in oak barrels and through contact with the yeast lees after fermentation. The wine even has a little ‘wild fermentation’ — instead of using commercial yeast as most wineries would, the winemakers take a walk on the wild side and let the yeast present in the winery run the ferment, without controlled inoculation.
The texture and richness that comes from utilising these techniques is important when pairing a wine with game as it offers more ‘roundness’ or ‘lusciousness’ which works well with the dense nature of game meat.
Another critical detail when matching to game is gentle or moderate use of oak barrels — the deft hands of the winemaker really come into play with this wine.
The preparation of this rabbit dish is really clever. While many of the ingredients are what you might expect in terms of a braised rabbit dish, the introduction of sultanas for sweetness and pine nuts for complexity and richness, gives rise to a broader spectrum of flavours to work with when food and wine matching.
In particular, the acid in this wine works well to ‘cut’ through the sweetness of the sultanas and the time in oak and on yeast lees adds a ‘nuttiness’ to the wine that ties in very well with the pine nuts in the dish.
This Marsanne is truly rare and interesting wine, and I think one of the great examples of its kind. It would be well worth taking a Sunday afternoon to harvest some bunnies, cook this clever braised rabbit dish and settle back into a glass of this very special wine. A match made in heaven!
For your chance to win three bottles of this fine wine, email your best traditional recipe to email@example.com. It doesn’t have to be rabbit, it just has to be hearty and handed down through the generations.