Sometimes the old ones are the best, as this reimagining of the classic ‘petit pois à la Francaise’ or ‘ham and peas’ proves, says Tim Maddams. Serves two.
This recipe for poached rabbit ham is simply a gamey twist on a traditional favourite. In this case, if you think ‘ham and peas’ you will not go far wrong at all. In the days when ham was cured at home by placing pork into a brine or dry cure, you got the added advantage of the liquid that you used to cook your cured ham in – this would be salty but it would also be very savoury, fatty and, well, ham-y.
This wonderful broth would then be used to cook either fresh or soaked dried peas, not only to cook the pulses but to offset the saltiness of the broth. The classic French example of this is Petit pois à la Francaise or, as we know it, sweetened peas.
For this version, I have lightly cured the legs of the rabbit in a bit of dry cure for an hour or two, or overnight if you like. I have then rinsed off the salty cure and poached the rabbit legs until tender in light rabbit stock, made from the bones of the rest of the bunny.
Once the ‘hams’ are tender, set them to one side to cool a little before cooking the peas in the same stock. I add garlic, thyme, finely diced onion and beat in melted butter mixed with flour to thicken the pea-addled stock. The rabbit is then replaced with the now thick peas. Finish by stirring though washed, sliced lettuce just before serving. The whole thing sounds like a bit of a faff to make but is really very simple and is a great and inexpensive way of using up the rabbit in its entirety. It is also a good way to use frozen peas – they are ideally suited to this dish, bringing colour, flavour, sweetness and a satisfying texture.
There is something timeless about this rabbit dish and this recipe for poached rabbit just the sort of thing that I’d like to be served if I was invited to someone’s house for lunch.
Recipe for poached rabbit ham with sweetened peas
For the rabbit
- 2 rabbit haunches
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 4 white peppercorns and 1 fresh bay leaf
Chop the bay and grind a little pepper, mix with the salt and sugar. Season the rabbit legs with the mixture and leave overnight to cure in the fridge.
For the stock
- Bones from 1 rabbit, excluding the haunch
- 1 onion
- 1 carrot
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ pint dry cider
Wash the onion, carrot and garlic and place in a saucepan with the rabbit bones, bay leaf and cider, and top up with water. Simmer the pan on the stove and skim off any scum that rises to the top. Allow to simmer slowly for a maximum of two hours, strain off the bones and keep the stock.
To cook the rabbit
Rinse the leftover cure from the rabbit meat and place in a good pan with a lid, cover with rabbit stock and poach, barely simmering, until the rabbit meat is tender. Once tender, remove the rabbit legs from the stock and place on a plate nearby. Keep them handy – the rest of the dish does not take long to cook at all.
- 50g butter
- 1 small onion, very finely diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
- 1 sprig of thyme, leaves only, lightly chopped
- 50g flour
- 2 cups frozen peas
- A few lettuce leaves, washed and ready to slice
- Salt and pepper
Melt the butter in a pan and add the onion and garlic, cook for a minute or two then add the thyme. Now add the flour to make an oniony roux.
Add the stock, a little at a time, until a thin sauce is achieved – like making a basic white sauce, only it’s not white and it’s not basic. Add the peas to this and simmer for a minute or two until they are tender.
Season the mix and add the rabbit back in to warm. Turn off the heat, and add a drop more butter and the sliced lettuce leaves. Season and serve.