After the relative (and joyful) simplicity of the ingredients I received for my previous challenges, I knew that this time was bound to be different. Challenge number three that GPHQ sent had really raised their game, and very nearly broke me!
So when the lovely Hubbub folk delivered the following ensemble of goods I could only chuckle to myself like a madman:
1 whole rabbit
2 pig’s trotters
Colston Bassett stilton
1 white cabbage
1 scotch bonnet chilli
Cripes. Where usually ideas had come quite quickly to me, with this lot I was left scratching my head (not with the trotter). I immediately split the ingredients into two parts. One pile was items I could scrape together into something reasonable sounding and something I was confident of making. The other pile was everything else. Luckily I had attempted to cook with rabbit only a month or so before, so I vaguely knew what I was doing with that. I then nicked all of the ‘easier’ ingredients to go with that, ignoring the fact that I was leaving myself in a sticky situation when it came to the trotter.
‘Sticky situation’ doesn’t even begin to cover it. God only knows why I left myself sweet potato, stilton, avocado and cabbage to accompany the trotter, or why I decided to bone and stuff the trotters. In this aspect I was an absolute beginner and it showed. These weren’t the beautifully crafted pied de cochon as served by the likes of Pierre Koffmann and by the end I almost gave up. However, I’m pleased I carried on, as despite the cosmetic failings they still tasted dreamy.
There is one thing that I have to admit to failing on; three words: red current jelly, somehow I just couldn’t make it work. So not quite mission accomplished, but given my trials and tribulations with this challenge I will happily accept this failing.
Rotolo of rabbit with rack, rabbit bacon, almonds and chilli and rosemary oil
1 rabbit, livers, kidneys and heart reserved
For the braised rabbit:
The jointed rabbit, apart from the rack and belly
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 onions, roughly chopped
1 leek, roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs of rosemary
1 large glass of white wine
1.5-2ltrs of chicken stock, or enough to just cover
2 tbsp parmesan, finely grated
For the offal:
The heart, kidneys and liver from the rabbit, sinew removed
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
3 sprigs of thyme
For the pasta:
200g ‘00’ grade pasta flour
2 medium eggs
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
For the rabbit rack:
The rack from the rabbit, ribs trimmed of meat
1 small knob of butter
For the rabbit bacon:
The belly flaps from the rabbit, trimmed of any sinew and finely sliced
For the roasted almonds:
2 handfuls whole, skin-on almonds
3 sprigs thyme
3 sprigs rosemary
2 garlic cloves, sliced
For the chilli and rosemary oil:
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small slice of scotch bonnet chilli
1 garlic clove, crushed
3 sprigs rosemary
Parmesan cheese, finely grated
First joint the rabbit. Remove the front and rear legs and the section of saddle that comes after the rib cage. Cut away the belly flaps. Carefully trim the racks away from the backbone, then work your knife in between the ribs to scrape them clean. Keep any spare trimmings or bones. Set aside the rack, belly and offal for use later.
Heat a large saucepan to a medium-high temperature. Add a little oil, and when hot brown the legs, saddle and any spare bones in batches until well coloured. Remove to a side plate. Add the braising vegetables and herbs to the pan and sauté for a couple of minutes. Pour in the wine and reduce by half, then return the rabbit to the pan and cover with the stock. Bring back to the boil and then simmer slowly for about an hour, or until the rabbit is very tender. Allow to cool, then pass the liquid through a fine sieve into another saucepan. Discard the vegetables, and pick all of the rabbit meat from the bones and shred well.
To make the pasta, put all of the ingredients into a food processor and mix together well, until the contents resemble coarse breadcrumbs. Tip onto a surface and knead well for about 5 minutes, then wrap the dough with clingfilm and put in the fridge to rest for at least half an hour.
Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC.
For the roasted almonds, scatter the nuts into an oven dish with the thyme, rosemary and garlic. Drizzle over a little olive oil and season well. Roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool.
Put the saucepan with the reserved stock onto a high heat, and allow to reduce right down until about 300ml remains.
Heat a frying pan to a medium temperature. Add a little oil and soften the shallot, garlic and thyme for the offal. After a couple of minutes, turn the heat up slightly and add the heart, kidneys and liver. Cook quickly for another 2-3 minutes, then remove from the pan and chop finely.
Put the shredded rabbit into a bowl and add the cooked offal and shallot mixture, the parmesan and approx. 5 tablespoons of the reduced sauce. Combine well and adjust the seasoning if needed. Allow to cool completely.
Roll out the pasta dough into two sheets using the thinnest setting of your pasta machine. Brush the long edge of one sheet with a little water and overlap the other sheet on top, creating a join of about a centimetre. Trim the new large sheet to about 30cm in length. Overlap two pieces of cling film on a clean surface and lay the sheet on top. Spread the rabbit mixture in a thin and even layer on top, leaving a lip of about 2cm on the nearest edge and 3cm on the furthest. Using the cling film to assist, carefully roll the pasta away from you in a Swiss roll fashion, keeping it as tight as possible. When you reach the far edge, brush a little water along it and seal. Lay the pasta cylinder onto a clean tea towel and wrap tightly, securing each end with string.
For the chilli and rosemary oil, put the oil, rosemary, garlic, chilli and the zest from the lemon into a small saucepan and very gently heat through for about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Chop 3 tbsp of the roasted almonds up finely and add them to the oil with the lemon juice and some seasoning. Taste and set aside.
Fill a large, wide saucepan with well-salted water and bring to the boil.
When the water is hot, gently lower in the wrapped pasta cylinder. Simmer very gently for 20 minutes.
While the pasta is cooking, heat a small, non-stick frying pan to a high temperature. Pour in a little oil, then add the rabbit racks and sliced up belly to the pan. Cook the racks for 2 minutes on each side and the belly until very crispy and golden brown. Add the butter to the pan when the racks have a minute or so to go and baste everything well. Remove the racks to rest for a couple of minutes, and cook the belly for a little longer if necessary.
Transfer the cooked pasta onto a chopping board and carefully unwrap. Slice using a very sharp knife into 3cm rounds and arrange 3 onto each plate. Also slice the racks and place 3 little cutlets around the pasta. Spoon over a good amount of the flavoured oil, then scatter on some of the roasted whole almonds and bacon. Finish by grating a little bit of parmesan on top.