Polenta and farmed rabbit

Polenta and farmed rabbit

Modern Italian Food
Earl Carter

Only a few years ago many Australians were repulsed by the idea of eating rabbit. Vivid memories of rabbit fences, disease and harsh years of drought and depression made rabbit a most detested food.

Mercifully memories of the depression years are waning and the farmed rabbit is marching on, becoming more readily available and increasingly accepted on restaurant tables. In Europe I was accustomed to farmed rabbit or hare. A hare, or indeed anything from the wild, was very sought after. My cousin Giulio, a keen hunter, and a proud railway man, nearly finished his long career at the service of the Italian Rail in disgrace because of a hare. He was driving a small train on the familiar lunchtime student run between two cities when suddenly a hare appeared on the tracks. His predatory instincts prevailed and he hit the animal.

‘Great’ – he said to his mate – ‘let’s stop the train and get dinner!’ Unfortunately, on that simple old type of train, if you open one door they all open. There was a blind man on board. When the train came to a stop, his dog thought they had arrived at the station, so he led his master out. And the poor bloke fell over, luckily without bruising himself. I do not know how the cousin got away – there sure was an inquest. Perhaps his peccadillo was forgiven after 45 years of loyal service, many of which were spent shoving coal into the boiler of the old steam engines.


Quantity Ingredient
1 large rabbit
plain flour, for dusting
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
small bunch sage and rosemary, tied together
5 slices pancetta, roughly chopped
salt and pepper
50ml white wine
440g canned peeled tomatoes, crushed
20 kalamata olives
olive oil
1 quantity * polenta [rid:10064]


  1. Chop the rabbit into manageable pieces or ask the butcher to do it for you. Dust the pieces lightly in flour. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan (a cast-iron pot is perfect for this dish), and fry the rabbit pieces on all sides until they colour a nice golden brown Remove the rabbit from the pan and set aside.
  2. Heat the butter and the rest of the oil in the same pan and fry the onion, carrot and celery until they soften. Add the herbs and pancetta, and return the rabbit to the pan. Season with salt and pepper and pour on the wine. Simmer until the wine has evaporated, then add the tomatoes and olives. Simmer with the lid askew for up to an hour, or as long as it takes for the rabbit to cook to a lovely soft consistency and for the sauce to reduce and the flavours intensify.
  3. Make the polenta. When ready to serve, mound the polenta onto a big serving platter and surround with the rabbit and its sauce.
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