Monday, August 24, 2009

Thank Your Mother for the Rabbits

Sadly my mother died last year.
She starved to death.
Not a pleasant way to go for someone who so loved food.
Having sat with her through her illness, trying to cook her the ever decreasing range of foods that her cancer would allow her eat, I don't much care to hear about palliative care bringing families a time of peace and joy.
I digress.
My mother was a wonderful cook and rabbits were a staple in my early years.
Rabbit pies were a way of preparing this plentiful food source before the very cruel disease myxomatosis was introduced in a futile attempt to eradicate the bunny.
These days I often cook Rick Stein's rabbit pie with thyme dumplings atop the pie mixture to support the pastry (one of mine and Mary's pictured). Quite the best rabbit recipe I have encountered.
As a kid I spent many of my holidays on a farm near Jericho in Tasmania and my best friend David and I would snare rabbits and skin and prepare them for the farm dogs, keeping the best for the table.
David's mother baked such tender rabbit I can taste it still. Stuffed and covered with foil and cooked with dripping and a little water in a moderate oven for one and a half hours and then uncovered for a further half an hour. So simple but sublime.
I was at lunch at Cygnet on Sunday with a friend who remembers eating rabbits three times a week during her childhood. The "rabbitoh" would come around each house selling his rabbits for eight-pence a pair. Her mother prepared them curried, casseroled and baked in heavy brown paper.
It was many years before my friend Tom Samek introduced me to the wonderful flavor of hare cooked by him at the historic St Andrews Inn at Cleveland, an old coaching inn between Hobart and Launceston. It was Tom who introduced me to the joy of cooking game. But that's another tale.


  1. Hi Stephen-nice post about the pleasure of bunny, not the Heffner kind I might add!
    Yes rabbit is a curious meat. At once so plentiful everywhere yet we tend toward it mostly farmed these days. Years ago inthe Victoria market the rabbitohs held teir ground with the more traditional butcher. These days sadly, there is but one left who sells rabbit 'on the side'. The old bloke I knew at the Viccy market was called Strewen & he, I recall was the last true dinks Rabbitoh at the Queen Vic Market, circa 1994.
    When I first got here I enquired about getting some rabbits from a huntin', skinnin' fishin' kinda bloke. A week later he arrived with planty of freshly skinned rabbits just like 'Greengrass' the poacher & prototype 'Arthur Daly type' of sorts did on the BBC sixties throwback show 'Heartbeat'.
    Of course I put them on them menu, bluffed my way through the explanations of their provenance & held my breath. They were a small success & went some way to underpin our percieved committement to the region.
    A mate of mine recently scoffed at the price I pay for farmed rabbits, suggesting I just go out & bag 'em meself. As I explained the dull red tape involved I imagined myself doing just that-What an over complicated world we live in these days.
    Might I meekly suggest that the fear of litigation might be the root cause of such complexities?

  2. BTW Stephen my mum loved food. A country girl herself, sheep counrty, Dennelequin NSW, & was the catylist for my involvement in food. She sadly died fron cancer also, in April 09.

  3. Mums are very very precious things Steve. Another thing we share mate.


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