Monday, January 23, 2012

Lapin, Lapin

Bonsoir, Mes Amis!

Bienvenue à une nouvelle journée trépidante avec nous ici en France, ses amis et disciples de Mangez.Voyage.Plongée.

This week has been filled with lots of work outside, lifting huge old lumps of stone, digging holes, plus cleaning and clearing junk in the cellar.  Most importantly I’ve been getting the chance to get stuck into lots of cooking, and kitchen fun-times.

I’ve had a go at anything foodie that’s come my way, and I’ve learnt so much about cookery on my travels – the journey from single guy eating pre-made box meals to making my own meals and having cooking fun with the wonderful Winnie has been so cool.  Today I want to share with you my first attempt at butchery.

Whilst shopping for new and exciting local ingredients an incredible idea popped into my head:

“...POP - French & Versatile!...”

Yes! French and Versatile; I would pick a cheap seasonal meat (fresh from the hunt) and combine it into one of my tried and tested versatile cooking recipes…One thing I had to change was herb/spice choices and a different local wine, since we are in the Languedoc-Roussillon region.  On requesting a local deal on meat at the local supermarket charcuterie, I was given a challenge/new option: Rabbit.  It had been skinned, and I would need to butcher it myself.

“…Challenge: Butcher My Own Rabbit & Cook It…”

So, With a Rabbit and a bottle (or two) of Languedoc “La Clappe” in our groceries, I headed to the chateau’s herb garden to pick some fresh home grown yummies to complement our ex-bouncing, carrot munching fluff-ball…I went for some bay leaves (aka Laurier in France) and a sprinkling of seasoning and paprika.

Nimbus & Gucci - The Ones that got away...
Step 1 – J’ai coupé le lapin

I cut up the rabbit.

What follows next is a fairly graphic demonstration (in photos) of how I did this – this was my disclaimer.  You have been warned!!

Before beginning my first attempt at butchery, I washed the whole rabbit and removed any remaining silver skin.  After this I went in for the “kill” and gave butchery a good stab!  I took out my cleaver and chopped Mr Lapin’s head from his body.  This was the hardest thing to do – having had a bunny rabbit as a family pet, and knowing that we have family friends (The Banker, The Spot and Coco) who own bunnies called Nimbus and Gucci.  So, I brandished my cleaver lined up for the first blow and with one firm downward stroke (and a feeling of being a medieval executioner)….

“Off with his head!”

Winnie cried out as if I had just killed a family member, and made mention to it being cute – how can a skinned pile of flesh and bones look cute…although it did have large, sad looking eyes…
Sad, Sad Eyes...
Next, I removed the front leg.  There is a definite point between the main joint on the leg and the rest of the carcass that you can work the knife (I was using a small utility knife to slice through this area then finished off the joint with the cleaver once again).  I was getting the hang of this.  The second front leg came off with considerable ease, once I had remembered that I had read about there being a soft tissue between the leg and the body.
Finding the soft spot to chop off the legs
With its head and front legs sitting in a bowl, Mr Lapin was looking more like dinner and less like a family pet.  Next, I used a similar technique to remove the back legs.  You have to work carefully around the tail bone, but other to this it’s fairly simple.
Legs & Head Gone...
Removing the back legs
Since the rabbit had kindly had its intestines (and I’ve been told by a certain Aussie friend, Mr Main-iac, that this can be a god-awful smelly mistake if you knick them) removed for me, I carefully removed Mr L’s Kidneys, Lungs, Liver and Heart.  When I removed the lungs I had to cut the windpipe which was weird.  The Liver, Heart and other pieces were going into my stew later so I got rid of fatty layers and placed them in my bowl.
Kidneys & Liver
Mr Lapin looking like a flying fox
I then turned the bunny over and removed the small loin, using the sharp utility knife.  After this, I cut the rib cage away and removed all of the meat from around the ribs. 
Removing the meat from the ribs
I was left with some rather yucky looking “Schmutz” (a technical rabbit term), but in the interest of recycling and cooking with versatility I decided to make a stock using the rabbit bones and off cuts that didn’t make the stew.

I then carefully went over my removed meat and removed those yucky parts for the stockpot (I also need to point out that post stockpot the bones were given to the dogs!).  I next washed the meat that made the grade and put it aside in a bowl ready for step 2….
My First Butchered Bunny
Step 2 – J’ai cuit le lapin

I cooked the rabbit.

So moving back into my comfort zone, I proceeded to make a sensational stew, or as the French call it “Ragoût Sensationnelle”.
Ingredients all lined up and ready to begin
Just so you know, here’s the ingredients list (you should have it memorized now):
  • 2 Carrots
  • 2 Celery Sticks
  • 2 Onions
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 2 Laurier Leaves
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • 1 Freshly Massacred Rabbit
  • 500ml Languedoc “La Clappe” Red Wine (Medium & Fruity Local Wine)
  • 3 Field Mushrooms (I had some left over in the pantry)
  • Tomato Base
  • Olive Oil
  • 8 Ripe Large Tomatoes
  • 2 Large Knobs of Butter
  • 1 Red Onion
  • 2 Tbs Tomato Ketchup (or if you have it, Tomato Pureé)
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • 1 Cup Water
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • 250g Self-Raising Flour
  • 125g Freezer-Chilled Butter
  • 2 Sprigs of Rosemary
  • Salt & Pepper
Just because Winnie and I are trying to learn new things to broaden our horizons and since Queen Sophie doesn’t buy tinned vegetables as a general rule; I have been working on an idea to make my own tomato base to replace the usual 400g tin of chopped tomatoes.

Simple, easy and with the regular stock of ingredients we keep at home is what I’m aiming for.
Chop your tomatoes in to rough chunks, peel and finely slice the red onion and your ready to go.  Next chuck a lug of olive oil into a pan and warm up your pot on a medium flame / heat.  Then chuck a knob of butter in (let it melt).   Add the prepped tomatoes and onions, then give it a good stir. 

Next add second knob of butter, tomato ketchup and paprika.  Stir in the cup of water and wham up the heat, bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Don’t let the tomatoes break down completely, just soften them.
My Tomato Base
Take off the heat and let it cool in the pan and the tomato base is ready.  I guess if you fancied you could use basil, oregano or even some more lovely garlic to give the base a different taste (but I have an abundance of paprika at the moment which is my reason for choosing). 
Local Wine, Languedoc "La Clappe"
If you’re keen to see how I made the stew, check out my Sensational Stew Recipe which is talked about in detail in an earlier blog post about Versatile Cooking.   All you need to know is that you can adjust your cooking time to about 1 hour and 30 minutes, with the lid on.   Then 30 minutes with the lid off and the dumplings dunked into the surface.  See the Sensational Stew post for details about my Rosemary Dumplings.
Stew & Dumplings....
I’m making an effort to be a food efficient role model to our readers; recycling excesses and using / re-using the stuff we all have in the cupboard.  Left-overs can make such interesting stocks, meals or bases for sauces. 

I really want you to feel empowered or inspired to use the stuff you already have in your pantry – Lets not waste lots of money that we don’t have to waste on excesses.  I’m hoping we can all hoard a little less, allowing less of it to perish and let’s all try to create a more abundant food stock for the future..  I can’t stand to see food wastage, so I always try to work out recipes that work with what I have already, with just a few items added to create new and exciting recipes.

“…Let’s create an abundance of food…yummy!”

Je veux vraiment que vous vous sentiez habilités ou inspiré d'utiliser les trucs que vous avez déjà dans votre garde-manger - Permet de ne pas gaspiller de l'argent que nous n'avons pas à perdre avec excès. J'espère que nous pouvons tous thésauriser un peu moins, ce qui permet moins de lui à périr et nous allons tous essayer de créer un stock de nourriture plus abondante pour l'avenir .. Je ne peux pas supporter de voir le gaspillage de nourriture, donc j'essaie toujours de travailler sur des recettes qui fonctionnent avec ce que j'ai déjà, avec juste quelques articles ajoutés pour créer des recettes nouvelles et passionnantes.

“…Nous allons créer une abondance de nourriture ... Miam!”

Messy presentation, but still a yummy, yummy stew.

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