Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Braised rabbit with black olives and ground almonds

I'm not that kind of girl. Really.
It is not like me to turn my back on a meaningful relationship because things aren't the way they used to be. Things change, we get older. I always knew that. And let's face it, he was no spring chicken to begin with. When we met he was stylish and wordly but he had had his share of relationships before me and they had certainly left their mark. It didn't matter to me then, I coveted him from afar and waited patiently, because I knew he would come to me. He did and the fact that he was older didn't matter to me at all because I loved him. All I cared about was sharing my time with someone who was really there for me, supportive, someone who was in it for the long-term. So when we walked down the street I didn't care if people stared, I just walked on, my hand curled around him, head high, confident of what we shared, disinterested in what people thought of us. So what if he was old? Nobody knew what we really shared. He knew everything about me, kept all my secrets. He made me laugh, he made me cry. Thanks to him, I contacted old friends I hadn't seen in years. He got me to stay more in touch with my family, he travelled around the world with me. He shared my fondest memories: my children growing up, our travels. So even if I saw the signs of his ageing, I shrugged them off. Until there was just no ignoring them anymore: he was suddenly slow, he just couldn't keep up with my pace anymore. He often needed to rest, to recharge his batteries.

And then it happened. A few months before Christmas, I met the object of my desire. Young, sexy, sleek, sophisticated. Fair, so different from the darker tones I was used to. He knew everything about anything, he seemed ahead of his time. I accidentally brushed him with the tips of my fingers and was amazed at how responsive he was to my touch. My head was spinning, I had forgotten what that felt like. I left immediately, ashamed of my behaviour, my heart pounding. I told no one for the longest time, not you, not my friends, not my family. How could I? I turned my head and went on with my life. I pretended I had never seen him, that he did not exist, that he wasn't suddenly everywhere I looked. I am not one to make sudden decisions and I knew I did not want to invest in a whole new relationship, the cost would be too high, it was not worth it. All relationships get old sooner or later, the excitement wears off quickly. But I couldn't shake the memory of our first encounter and my relationship was undeniably starting to show the strain. I kept trying to ignore all the signs but finally I gave in and went to look for him.
I could not resist, I succembed. Forgive me, but I am in love or call it lust if you prefer. I know things will change, but for now I have decided to enjoy every second.

Man, however, cannot live on love alone, so let's talk food.

In my usual attempt to get rid off odds and ends in my fridge and cupboards I came up with this recipe. I had a handful of black olives left over from an evening that began with a very good friend visiting from Hong Kong coming over for a glass of wine and ended many hours and bottles of wine later with an impromptu sleepover of three. Then there was that half cup of ground almonds left over from the macarons I made in December... oh yes, I made macarons. Didn't I tell you? After a few previous failures, these actually turned out good and half of them looked pretty too, but I refuse to post about them until I perfection the art, which I  may or may not if I must be totally honest with you.
Anyhow, back to the rabbit. If you cannot bear the idea of eating your favorite childhood friend like Mr and Mrs McGregor did, then hop along my friends. I already got on my soapbox about the many pros of eating rabbit meat here if you are curious.
I am aware that adding olives and tomato sauce to rabbit is not all that original, I agree. And putting ground almonds in tomato sauce is also not that original if you are Sicilian, especially if you are making couscous with fish soup. But putting them together seemed like it was to me until now that I am writing this post and I just discovered it is actually quite common to cook rabbit with almonds in Spain and some parts of Italy, although not with quite as much tomato sauce and without olives it seems. However, if you hadn't heard of this combination, rest assured that it  is quite delicious. Every bite is the perfect combination of fall-apart tender meat, briny nuggets of olive flesh, acidity from the tomato and the very subtle sweet, nuttiness from the almonds. Whatever they are lacking in flavor, they make up for in texture, I promise.
From top left to bottom right: 1. clean and 2. portion the rabbit 3. sear the meat 4. sauté garlic and herbs 5. add meat and season 6. add crushed tomatoes 7. add stock and olives and simmer covered over low heat 8. set aside meat, add ground almonds and reduce sauce 9. add meat and simmer a little longer.

Ingredients (4 servings)
1 rabbit, portioned
1 can crushed tomatoes
about 3/4 cup black olives
about 1 cup stock
cider vinegar or white wine
1 or 2 sprigs rosemary
2 bay leafs 
1 or 2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup ground almonds
olive oil

If you have a whole rabbit, portion it, trim excess fat if necessary and separate the kidneys, heart and liver, which you can cook along with the rest. You can keep the neck and ribs (if you take them out) to make stock. Rinse the pieces (the front legs or shoulders, the back legs and the saddle) and dry. Or soak the rabbit meat in water and some vinegar for about a half hour before cooking to get rid of gaminess, if you prefer. I didn't.

Pour about two tablespoons of olive oil into a large, heavy based casserole and heat well. Coat the meat in flour, shake off the excess and sear in the hot pan until browned. Set aside.

Sauté the previously chopped garlic and rosemary in the oil, add a couple of bay leafs and put the meat back in. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper (don't overseason, the olives will add saltiness). Pour over a dash of white/cider vinegar and/or some white wine and cook over high flame until it evaporates. Reduce heat, add the chopped tomatoes and let cook for a few minutes before adding the stock and olives.

Cover and simmer over a low flame for about an hour, until the meat is tender. When the rabbit is ready, take out the meat and set aside. Taste the sauce for salt and then mix in the ground almonds. Reduce the sauce and put the meat back in. Cover and cook for a few more minutes.

Serve with polenta, rice or mashed potatoes.


  1. Brilliant!!! I wasn't sure where you where going with it, but I never ever expected it to be the phone! Lol. and the recipe looks so good I may actually attempt to cook rabbit. xoxo

    1. Hehe! It was about time, my old phone is almost an antique! You must attempt the rabbit, so easy and a great alternative to chicken.

  2. I love this rabbit recipe! I have to try it!

  3. Oh my goodness you are brilliant! I was dying to see where this was going. At one time I was sure that you were talking about a handbag! :P My 4S is so out of date according to some! :P

    1. I was still using an iPhone2 handed down from my father-in-law to my husband to me a few years ago!

  4. You had me worried for the first few paragraphs there. Love the idea of the olives with rabbit. One to book mark. Ta x

  5. We've actually been making rabbit more often lately but not yet a dish like this one. LOVE a thick tomato sauce with olives and how perfect with rabbit. I've bookmarked this one! Yay!

  6. PS Love the titillating story :-)

  7. A classic combination as you say but I've never tried it with ground almonds. Interesting idea!


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