As we are approaching Easter I thought it would be appropriate to make an Italian Lenten dish - a somewhat quirky offering called Tonno di Coniglio which translates to Rabbit Tuna.
This is a dish from the Piedmonte region of Italy and the story goes that the monks would dunk rabbits into the lake and then pull them out where they would then be baptised as fish. This meant they would be able to eat them during lent as they would be eating fish and not meat.
The dish itself is a two part process - the rabbit is simmered in a simple stock until tender. The meat is shredded from the carcass and stored in an olive oil and lemon mix, flavoured with various herbs and vegetables, for a day or two.
Some recipes will have sage as the main herb but in this version from Geppy Dezani, parsley and basil are used instead. It's important that you use the best extra virgin olive oil you can find as it is a major component of the dish and its flavour comes through the dish.
Tonno di Coniglio
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
fresh parsley, roughly chopped
fresh basil, ripped
1 red onion, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
olives, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon capers
sprig of rosemary, finely chopped
extra virgin olive oil
1-2 lemons, juiced
parsley leaves, chopped
basil leaves, ripped
Prepare the rabbit:
When choosing a rabbit, select rabbits that still have their liver intact. The liver is a great indicator of the quality and freshness of the meat.
Place the rabbit in a large pot, add in the chopped onion, carrot, celery, cloves and peppercorns. Cover generously with cold water and put it on a medium heat - when it comes to the boil, turn the heat down and let it barely simmer until the rabbit is tender and beginning to fall from the bone.
Remove the pot from the heat and allow the rabbit to cool in the liquid.
Make the marinade:
Place the rosemary, parsley, capers, olives, onion, garlic and basil in a non-reactive bowl. Stir in the lemon juice.
Remove the rabbit from the stock and pull the meat from the bones - leaving it as uneven shards. Place the meat in the marinade, stir and then add enough olive oil to cover. It's important that all the meat is covered by liquid.
Cover and place this in the fridge to rest - at least overnight.
As the oil will solidify over the mixture, you'll need to bring back to room temperature before you can serve it - depending on the ambient temperature, 15 to 30 minutes should be enough. You can also just remove a portion at a time but make sure you keep it covered with olive oil.
Before serving stir through some extra fresh parsley and basil.
It can be served as is, with good crusty bread on the side or as the topping for a tasty bruschetta.