Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Coniglio alla cacciatora: rabbit with tomato and wild mushrooms

For the last four years we’ve been spending September to June in Cadiz and July and August in Edinburgh, but this year we decided to break with tradition and spend the autumn in Tuscany. We’ve rented a house in Bagni di Lucca, about 20 miles north of Lucca up the Lima valley. Before going, I had a quick browse in the local bookshop and bought a copy of “Flavours of Tuscany” by Maxine Clarke. It’s beautifully illustrated, the recipes are not too fussy, and there aren’t too many of them. I’ve only been here for a week, but I’ve already cooked half a dozen things from it, all of which have turned out well.

1 large rabbit, jointed
½ bottle of red wine
4 large garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
a handful of springs of fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon of salt
olive oil
a handful of dried porcini mushrooms
1 kg of fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons of tomato puree
100g whole black olives
fresh parsley


  1. Put the rabbit pieces in a large bowl with the wine, garlic, rosemary and salt. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours (and overnight if you have time).
  2. Put the dried porcini in a bowl, cover with boiling water and leave for half an hour, then remove the mushrooms, keeping the liquid for later.
  3. Remove the rabbit pieces from the marinade, keeping the marinade liquid for later, and setting aside the rabbit’s liver.
  4. In a large pot, heat plenty of olive oil, fry the rabbit pieces quickly to brown them, then add the marinade liquid, the tomatoes, the tomato puree and the porcini. If necessary, add enough of the mushroom liquid so that the rabbit pieces are just covered.
  5. Bring to the boil then simmer very gently for two hours until the rabbit is completely tender.
  6. Quickly pan-fry the liver and put on a separate plate.
  7. Serve with plenty of crusty bread.

Wild mushrooms

Fresh porcini are only just starting to appear in shops and restaurants as I write this (early October), but I bought some dried ones at the little market. I’m not sure what the going rate for porcini is in the UK, but these were just under 20 euros the kilo, which works out at about 2 euros for 100g. This might sound expensive, but if you remember that the dried mushrooms bulk up when soaked and that they have a lot of flavour, then they’re not such a luxury item. 50g or less is enough to add plenty of flavour or character to quite a large dish (25g if you’re cooking for one or two), so this works out at about 25 cents worth of porcini per person.

Safety tip
The taxi driver who brought us from Pisa to Bagni di Lucca was a keen mushroom collector and told me that you should always disturb any piles of leaves with a long stick before putting your hand into them to pick mushrooms, just in case there are any adders lurking in them.

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