It is amazing how fads, fashions and trends sweep through our worlds like a whirlwind. Life now, with the popularity of social media, is a world away from what it was. This is an amazing platform to educate, inspire and connect with the whole world as this week, the National Game Week (22nd-28th November), testifies. Our world is changing fast, unlike our ancestors, we have an accelerated disjointed relationship with food and its provenance as we are on the whole, spoilt for choice and convenience.
Being a lifelong rabbiter, I know the merits of producing good meat for the table. The provenance of ferreted rabbit us unquestionable, and although today rabbit is a very popular dish, it wasn’t always this popular. I can remember over ten years ago when, at a cooking demo, a certain chef that always used to call rabbit vermin at shows and belittled its core values. Big mistake. Being from Teesside, I have that genetic chip on my shoulder and the ‘I will show you attitude’ that has got me through life for better or worse. This comment just stoked the fire within me and that started the crusade to get rabbit back on our tables and in the magazines. Of course, many other hunters, chefs and cooks have promoted rabbit, but my story started with the ferrets.
My aim was to get everybody to realise that anybody can enjoy our lifestyle and live a healthy life where convenience doesn’t necessarily mean bad. A lot depends on what the contents are and, in many cases, where game is concerned, it can be convenient as well as healthy or as is the case with rabbit, the original fast food.
You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food, especially nutritious food. Rabbit is a great source of support for your mental health, red blood cell formation, healthy cell division and to reducing your tiredness and fatigue. It is lean and packed full of proteins, vitamins, minerals and other great health benefits. Learning the merits of good nutrition now that I am running and keeping myself in good shape for some projects next year that will push my body and mind to their limits.
Rabbit is a versatile meat. And a great absorbent meat that lends itself well to aromatic flavours in the recipe You’ll find it roasted, fried, grilled, baked, sauteed, slow-cooked, braised, stewed, marinated and more. It pairs well with a multitude of herbs and vegetables and is often used as a starter or as a main course. My favourite dish is of course the bunny burger, who can resist a burger.
To start the celebrations, whilst creating content for an upcoming piece for the Shooting Times, I rustled up some burgers for my pal Ben and Craig who was taking the photographs. By removing the stigmas and perceived restrictions around eating rabbit and game by making it accessible and a healthy alternative. With a little imagination and rules, you can enjoy your rabbit in the comfort of your own home like you would like the finest chefs in the finest of restaurants. No excuses, no buts.
Being born and bred in Middlesbrough, and being au fait with the dish, I decided to try put my twist on it by making it out of what else, rabbit or rabbit parmo fingers as I like to call it.
The simplicity of this makes it so appealing and because I use the saddles (hence the name ‘fingers’), you can use these as snack or add a side dish and have it as a main meal.
Watch this recipe being made on YouTube https://youtu.be/Gu6dg9ZMALg
Boro’s Bunny Parmo Fingers.
8 rabbit saddles (loins)
Plain flour (for dredging)
1 egg + a splash of milk (for dredging)
Any natural breadcrumbs
Rapeseed oil (for frying)
200g Mature Red Leicester or coloured Cheddar (grated)
For the béchamel
55g plain flour
1 pint (568ml) milk
Salt, pepper and other seasonings
Remove the saddles from each rabbit and then remove the sinew, and if stored in a fridge ensure that you take the meat out of the fridge and allow it to reach room temperature (at least half an hour).
Then start by making the béchamel:
Melt 25g butter in a saucepan and gradually sift in 25g of flour over a medium heat, stirring constantly. Once all the flour is added, the mixture should resemble a thick paste, and should come away from the sides of the pan as you stir. Cook like this over a medium heat for a couple of minutes. Gradually add the milk a little at a time while stirring. If it is a bit lumpy you could use a whisk instead. Cook for another 10-12 mins, constantly stirring. The sauce should reach the ribbon stage. Season to taste and then put it to one side and cover surface of sauce with baking parchment or cling film to avoid a skin forming.
Now for the rabbit:
Ensure any sinew has been removed and place on a chopping board under a sheet of cling film. Bash out each fillet with a tenderising mallet (or rolling pin), to an even thickness of about three quarters of an inch.
Dredge the meat. First place the rabbit into the flour, then soak in the egg and then cover with breadcrumbs. Ensure that the coating is even all over then set aside. Repeat until all 8 are ready for frying.
Add the rapeseed oil to a large frying pan to a depth of roughly 1 inch and heat. Once the oil reaches its optimal temperature, cook the rabbit (I got all 8 in a large pan) for approximately 2 minutes on each side, till the breadcrumbs have turned golden.
Place the fillets into a preheated oven at 180C for 6-8 minutes to finish them off. All times are approximate due to fluctuation in size of rabbit loins. Make sure the rabbit is cooked through.
Cover the rabbit with a generous layer of béchamel sauce.
Sprinkle on the grated cheese and place back in the oven or under a grill until it’s melted.
Season to suit and serve with chips and salad or coleslaw.
Parmos are best accompanied by garlic or chilli sauce to dip in but ketchup is often frowned upon but not by me.
You can of course make a healthier version of this using low fat creme fraiche instead of calorific béchamel sauce, gluten-free breadcrumbs, and top it with a low fat cheese.
Blog written by By Simon Whitehead