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Recipe for potato rösti with rabbit and poached eggs

Leon Challis-Davies whips up a fantastic breakfast of a potato rösti with rabbit and poached eggs in the chilly dawn light

Leon Challis-Davies whips up a fantastic breakfast of a potato rösti with rabbit and poached eggs in the chilly dawn light

The finished dish. Rabbit on a potato rosti with poached eggs and wild mushrooms.

A bitterly cold night in early December saw me controlling increasing rabbit numbers on a local farm. Rabbits can have up to seven litters a year and, with the temperature starting to drop, breeding conditions are ideal right now. Stuart Eborall, of Warwickshire Wild Game, has since seen his orders spike, and was keen to learn what else he can do with delicious and sustainable wild rabbit. This trend is great news for the game industry; an increase in orders can only reflect an increase in the visibility and popularity of wild British game. 

Stuart suggested we head out late, and I would follow up with a lean, high-protein breakfast for the former Sale Sharks star. It was pitch black when I arrived at the farm. There are no street lights to lead the way deep in rural Warwickshire, so I had to put my faith in Stuart’s ability to get us on the quarry. We started in the barn with the standard safety brief before hopping on to the ATV. Stuart has been on this farm for the best part of 20 years; he knows the lay of the land and was able to ease my anxieties about finding rabbits on new ground.

I used to lamp rabbits as a child, and we’ve come a long way since my outings with a battery-powered torch — a solid piece of equipment in the 1990s — and a break-barrel air rifle. Thermal technology is still fairly new to me, but Stuart and I were confident that our Pulsar Helion 2 XP50 Pro monocular would help our search. 

The winter night took a turn for the worse. Light fog started to descend upon us, but once again Stuart’s experience proved indispensable. Moving further up the farm took us away from the incoming mist, and further into the cold dead of night. The atmosphere was eerie. Despite the conditions, it didn’t take long for our razor-sharp Pulsar to pick up our first rabbit. It did, however, take a while before I was able to hit my first rabbit of the night. 


An evening of many misses

Stuart’s expert eye spotted the first rabbit. I then picked it up in the Pulsar Talion XQ38 scope. After a gentle squeeze on the CZ .22’s trigger, the rimfire’s report signalled the first shot of the evening — and the first miss. Bugs skipped back into the hedgerow, unnerved by his near-death experience. With a few encouraging words from behind me, we moved on to the next area. 

A second rabbit was soon in our sights. Surely this was now my time to shine? I lined up a perfect shot, confirmed by the crystal-clear image of the thermal technology. I pulled the trigger to send the Winchester Subsonic on its way. The same result. Miss. I started to scratch my head. Without sounding immodest, I’m usually a decent rifle shot, but I had missed my chance here. An empty field was my only reward. We moved on once again. 

Within minutes we stumbled on to a field of dreams. It was clear to see the need to control numbers on the farm, and with the aid of the thermal we could pick out almost 100 rabbits. Surely with this much quarry, I would be able to rectify my earlier misses. Eight failures followed. Shot nine ended in misery, and an almighty barrel of laughs from Stuart, cameraman Oli Lees and our other guest, Thomas Jacks’ Tom Gosbell. 

Despite a slow start, Leon Challis-Davies lines up a rabbit in the scope and makes a clean shot

As I lined up for the 10th chance of the night, I was getting colder, and sighting down the barrels, I was seriously starting to doubt whether I would hit anything ever again. Surely not? I took a deep breath and squeezed the trigger once more. With a small pop of the rifle, we had our first rabbit in the bag. There was a sigh of relief, and I suggested that Stuart get his rifle looked at. It couldn’t all be shooter error, surely? 

Confidence brimming, I started to get on a roll. With large orders to fill, we wasted no time in collecting our quarry for the evening. Knowing we had to push on early in the morning, we eventually brought the night to a close at 2am. 

We all had to be back at our day jobs the following morning, so we met for an early breakfast. While Stuart skilfully skinned the rabbits, I lit the fire. 

An open fire on a crisp December morning was welcomed for both heat and light. As it was also particularly windy, my trusty gas stove made an appearance to make sure the rabbits were cooked perfectly. 

Rabbit legs are delicious, but are best served braised, confit or slow-cooked. As we didn’t have the luxury of time, we used the loins. One thing to remember when cooking loin is the silver sinew that runs along the top of the back; this is easily removed, and stops the loin from curling up. It also gives the diner a melting mouthful of meat to enjoy, as opposed to a chewy morsel to fight through. 

I planned to keep the recipe simple, using a classic potato rösti. Having thoroughly washed and dried two large potatoes, I grated them along with some cheese and seasoned them with salt, pepper, thyme and a drizzle of olive oil. You can also add carrot, swede, sweet potato or even beetroot to this recipe — it’s an incredibly versatile dish. 

Then, as I’m a lover of luxury, out came my jar of duck fat for lining the pan. Olive oil will do just as well, but don’t be shy with whatever you use. The heat needs to be consistent for a rösti to create a crisp platform for the flip. Once I’d tossed the rösti and it was back on the gas stove, I could focus on the remaining elements — the rabbit and poached eggs.

The hard-won rabbits are skinned, and Leon picks out the loins to use for his tasty breakfast recipe


Assembling the dish

With vinegared water boiling on the open fire for the poached eggs, I thinly sliced shallots, garlic, wild mushroom and the rabbit into 1cm chunks. In a roasting-hot pan, I added a generous dollop of butter and olive oil, followed by the shallots, wild mushroom and garlic. Lastly, I added the rabbit loin we’d harvested just a few hours earlier. 

After three or four minutes of frying, you can deglaze the pan. Brandy or white wine work well, but I opted to use fresh double cream this time, and seasoned it with salt and pepper. This was reduced for a few minutes until it was a velvety consistency. A heaped teaspoon of wholegrain mustard or horseradish make good additions; you can do so much with the flavours you want to include in this dish. 

Whatever oil is used, the amount needs to be generous to ensure the rösti crisps up

Into the gently roiling water went fresh hen eggs, and three and a half minutes later we were ready to plate up. Using the potato rösti as a base, I spooned on the rabbit and topped with a poached egg. Black pepper and parsley finish the dish beautifully. 

It didn’t take us long to eat every last scrap, especially as Stuart needed to head back to the game larder with business going full-tilt for the fast-approaching festive period.