In the Italian Viterbo area where this recipe stems from, the term “porchetta”, which means roasted pig, is applied to any dish that use wild fennel, being it fresh or dried flowers. The wild flowers should not be confused with fennel seeds.
I am fortunate to have access to hunting areas and friends that hunt rabbits with me. I also breed rabbits for the table on a regular basis. Last week, I could not make it to the hunt and my friend was good enough to bring the only Hare they shot for me to cook. I also have a good friend across the road that showed me the wild fennel growing in the old quarry across the road, so I had assembled all the ingredients for my dish of wild hare with wild fennel!
Wild Hare with Fennel
One large Hare, cleaned, gutted and washed
Heart, liver and kidneys of the Hare (Coratella) – Cleaned, washed and cubed or minced
Extra Virgin olive oil
Six large sage leaves
4 Garlic cloves – cleaned and crushed
1 Cup dry white wine (the best is from Orvieto)
2 Medium potatoes peeled and cubed
2 Slices of Prosciutto or Pancetta (home made if possible)
1 handful of rosemary leaves
Half a handful of fresh Fennel Flowers
12 Black Olives – pitted
Salt and pepper
Heat the oven to 150C. Heat some olive oil in a heavy pan and ad the coratella, sage, half the garlic, salt and pepper. Brown the coratella, add the wine that you have not drunk yet and allow it to evaporate. Ad the potatoes and mix through, then take it off the heat. Wrap the coratella mixture in the prosciuto. Stuff the hare with the fennel, rosemary and wrapped coratella. Sow the rabbit up so the stuffing would not fall out. Put some olive oil in a heavy oven pan large enough to take the whole hare. Add the hare to he pan with the rest of the garlic, salt and pepper. Roast the hare about two hours. Halfway through the roasting process, add the olives and the rest of the wine you have not drunk. Turn it once or twice and baste it every so often. If the rabbit legs look dry, wrap the leg ends in aluminium foil.
Old recipes that use meats that are these days regulated to the garbage or pets abound in Italy. The problem is that offal is not generally obtainable. Slaughtering my own animals has huge advantages!
With a few rabbit carcasses in the freezer, we decided to make a dish with the coratella (heart, liver, spleen, kidneys and lungs) incorporating some of the artichokes that we now have in abundance. Mrs BYO created the dish and did the cooking, serving it with the staple of the North, polenta. It was a delicious meal and we have all of the rabbit left to feed the more fussy members of the tribe.
CORATELLA CON CARCIOFI
As many cleaned rabbit offals as you can get your hands on, but at least 4, cut in small pieces
1/2 cup rabbit fat. The fat surrounding the kidneys are the best. alternatively use 1/2 cup olive oil
4 large garlic cloves roughly chopped
2 tablespoons of finely chopped rosemary
4 or 5 artichokes, cleaned and prepared, cut into 4 sections. All the green leaves of the artichoke must be snapped off and the choke removed, leaving only the tender white parts of the leaves and the heart
salt and pepper
Heat the fat in the pan on a low heat until the fat runs clear and only small bits of browned fat remains in the pan. Saute the garlic and rosemary in the fat until the garlic is golden. Add the rabbit, season with salt and pepper and brown everything quickly over a high heat. Sprinkle with a bit of wine. Lower the heat and cook the rabbit for about 10 minutes, regularly sprinkling the meat with wine, then add the artichokes. Sprinkle wine generously and cook uncovered, turning the artichokes often. When the artichokes are tender, serve hot with polenta or bread.
Following my very unsuccessful rabbit breeding effort I have placed the plump doe with a hired stud and am hoping for the best (cost me a lot of money). Now for the Buck that was actually a Doe (I think) I have allocated a new abode and re-categorised her as a Breeder.
After everything calmed down I again became suspicious about the sex of the ‘new’ breeding doe and decided to first consult Google on how to sex your rabbits and came across a very handy you tube demonstration. I shared the article with a couple of my friends to get their opinion and was warned to be careful as an angry doe can be vicious and mean (like most females). Me being a seasoned farmer and rabbit breeder, I caught the lady for inspection – the long and the short of the story is she disapproved of the procedure and now look at my arm!!
I have never thought that my first biology lesson in year four would haunt me 60 years later. Anyhow my rabbit operation is very simple. I breed for the pot only and have three does and one buck that I mate once every two months. Every doe breeds twice a year which gives me 6 – 8 rabbits after sales and replacements for the pot every 8 weeks. I replace the older does every so often with a good specimen out of a litter and replace the buck with a new purchase as frequently as required to introduce new genes. When a friend of mine said that she has a New Zealand White buck and we should swap bucks as our breeding animals were not related, I thought it a great way to introduce fresh genes into both our operations. She was kind enough to bring her young man around and took my old buck away. I had a doe to breed and, as I normally do, I placed the buck with the doe for 25 days. When I moved the buck to his own cage I was certain that some days later I would have a litter. Last week it was time to slaughter and I butchered all the young ones except a very good looking young doe that I kept for breeding. The following day the buck’s 25 days of pleasure was up and I removed him from the doe. I noticed that even though still young, he did not put on much weight during the 25 days. At first I thought he must have over worked himself and I was now hoping for large litters, but to my dismay on closer inspection found my buck to be a doe. Inspecting the real doe, of course she was not pregnant but very nice and plump. I now have four empty does and no buck – what a farming fiasco! My teacher in year four told me that if you want to breed farm animals you should have boys and girls – only now do I understand what he was saying. I am now desperately searching for a virile buck – four lovely young ladies waiting!