A tasty and quick rabbit recipe that Tim Maddams bills as a buttery dhal with a difference. Serves two to four, ideally with a flatbread and a sprig of fresh coriander.
This recipe for cooking rabbit is short, satisfying and partly stolen, or perhaps it would be better to say it’s inspired by a dish that appears in Rick Stein’s great book, India. The bunny for this recipe should not be too old or tough as it cooks rather quickly and there will not be time for tough rabbit to soften in the pan.
Successfully ageing a rabbit is not easy. The obviously smaller ones are almost certainly youngsters but once mature it can be tricky to judge, and it is not an exact science. I think rifle-shot rabbits are the very best eating. They have little or no damage to any of the valuable flesh, though a bunny bolted by a ferret into a net and swiftly despatched will be on a par.
Cooking rabbit dhal
Aside from acquiring or making the garam masala, this dish is simple and you will find it is that perfect combination of being quick to cook but it will also feel like you’ve put in genuine effort and made something worthy of an occasion.
- 2 small onions or 1 medium, or whatever you have to hand
- 1½” piece of ginger
- 100g butter (yes, sorry, but it’s worth it)
- 150g red lentils
- 2 to 4 rabbit legs, boned and chopped up small
- 1 dsp garam masala
- A pinch or two of salt
- A fresh bay leaf, or two
- Water or rabbit stock
- Half a lemon
- Black pepper
- A good, solid cooking pot is needed for this recipe — one with a heavy base, a close-fitting lid and easily large enough to hold all the ingredients without them coming more than a quarter of the way up the side of the pot. Trust me on this.
- Finely slice the onions and start to warm the pot. Julienne the ginger — this is often described as cutting into matchsticks and that’s kind of OK, as long as the matches are long and thin — and divide this into two even amounts.
- Melt the butter in the pan. Add the onions and one pile of the ginger to the butter. Allow the pan to heat up so the onions start to cook a little and the ginger wilts. Then add the lentils and rabbit before stirring in three-quarters of the garam masala. Add a pinch of salt, the bay leaves and enough hot water or rabbit stock to cover everything. Bring it to a simmer, turn down the heat a little and pop the lid on.
- Every five minutes or so, remove the lid and stir. Assess how the lentils are doing — it is fine if they fall apart a bit, but they really aren’t very good if they are still crunchy. If necessary, top up the fluid. Have the occasional little taste and add salt if needs be.
- Once the lentils appear to be done, add a squeeze or two of the lemon and grind in some black pepper. Turn off the heat and sprinkle over the remaining ginger and garam masala. Bingo, the dish is ready to be served.