The Mint Shop

The Mint Shop

Monday, 1 November 2010

Chocolate and Rabbits for Halloween

I forgot to tell you that I am part of a cooking group ( There are 5 of us from different nationalities (English, French, Italian and Japanese) and the idea is to meet from time to time and teach one or two recipes from our country. As my cousin Giulia was visiting for the weekend, and Halloween was around the corner, I thought of bringing a slice of Tuscany to Cambridge to celebrate Autumn and All Saints.

Tuscan food is quite simple and earthy. Nothing too fancy. Just genuine, frank flavours with some Medieval touches. Most of it was developed at the court of Caterina dei Medici who brought with her some of her favourites. I am sure nobody knows that the original recipes for crepes and canard a' l'orange were in reality introduced to France from Florence, and I am not making it up! It is based on historical records - but I am sure that no French person would believe this story. Tant pis!

So rabbit with black olives, rosemary and garlic is a very traditional dish from Siena. But please don't even start looking at this recipe if you are squeamish even in the slightest! I have warned don't blame me for shaky legs or sudden sickness!

The meat was locally supplied from the Mill Road butcher - probably one of the best in Cambridge (this is once more in support of our Romsey Town Heaven!).

I would recommend that you ask the butcher to chop the rabbit and clean it as much as possible before you start cooking it. Also make sure you leave it in a bowl with running tap water for at least an hour (I know this sounds like an awful waste of resources but believe me if you don't you will feel like gone back to nature, a bit too much in fact!). I would also suggest that you are away from the kitchen and cannot hear the noise as it does turn into a real Chinese torture after only 15 minutes....

I might not have sold this rabbit very well. True. But it can taste divine - Alison can confirm (she had three servings!).

Rabbit with olives, rosemary, and garlic ("Coniglio alla Toscana")

a medium rabbit (approx 1kg);
150g black dried olives;
2 long sprigs of fresh rosemary;
3-4 garlic cloves;
half a glass of red wine;
4-5 tbsp olive oil;
600g potatoes

1. Pat dry the rabbits pieces (warning! this caused dizziness and sickness in one of our cooking members...who didn't faint though...phew!) with kitchen paper (rather than a towel as the smell that leaves is hard to remove despite two washings!).

2. In a large medium deep frying pan (a casserole would also do), heat the oil with the garlic and rosemary until the garlic is slightly brown.

3. Add the rabbit pieces cooking quickly on each side. Add the wine and let it evaporate.

4. Reduce the heat and add the olives. Cover and simmer for at least 25 minutes. The bottom of the pan will have a sticky layer of fat and olives which you can just scratch gently and add to the rest of the dish.

5. Separately cook the potatoes chopped in a 2-3 cm pieces in abundant salted water. Once they are half way cooking, drain them and add them to the rabbit. Stir well to ensure the rabbit oil covers the potatoes.

6. Serve hot with some mixed salad on the side.

The photo below was taken before the potatoes (and before the camera died).

I know that you are expecting the chocolate recipe too. I hope you have managed to read till now - and haven't been put off by the cute rabbit....

This chocolate cake is heaven. Not only because does it taste fantastic but also because it doesn't have many calories. So double good!

Dolce al cioccolato fondente (Fondant chocolate cake)

3oog dark chocolate (Sainsbury's basic will do perfectly well);
4 eggs;
4 tbsp sugar;
300g butter;
2 tbsp flour;
1 espresso cup

1. Pre-heat the oven at 180C. Melt the chocolate in a bowl on a boiling pan. Add the butter and incorporate well. Add the espresso and mix well. Let it cool.

2. Separate the eggs. Beat the yolks with the sugar and add them to the chocolate mix. Beat the egg whites until firm.

3. Add the flour using a sift to the chocolate mix. Mix well to ensure there are no lumps. If there are use a whisker and they will disappear.

4. Fold the beaten egg whites to the chocolate mix (with a clock-wise movement from down to up) with a metal spoon to avoid the air created in the whites doesn't disappear.

5. Grease and flour well a 20cm baking tray. Pour the mixture into the tray and cook in the oven for 30 minutes at C180.

The photo was taken only a couple of minutes after the cake was brought to the table. So you have an idea of how good it was!!

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