>Sicilian Sweet and Sour Rabbit [Recipe]

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This is taken from My Cousin Rosa, by the Australian-Sicilian writer Rosa Mitchell. Her publisher, Murdoch, sent me the book. It has some really lovely recipes: preserved artichokes, borlotti bean soup, how to make salami; as well as probably Sicily’s most famous meat dish, falsomagro – stuffed, rolled beef. (Mitchell spells it ‘farsomagro’, and I can’t believe she does so accidentally. Are they two different things?)

Coniglio agro dolce hopped out at me straight away. ‘Sweet and sour’ generally conjures up terrifying images of MSG gloop from The Peking Palace, but that’s most unfair. The flavours here work in synchrony, nor harsh nor grating, and rabbit stands up well to them.

Mitchell recommends cooking the flopsies in a covered roasting tin, but I used a casserole. I also had the oven at 180, because I’m impatient. We had some crusty bread on the side – I might have cooked a savoury polenta cake if I’d had more time – and baby English courgettes which I cut into long, thin slices, seasoned, then griddled with olive oil, some chopped red chilli, a squeeze of lemon and a little Microplaned pecorino.

Ingredients

Serves 6-8

2 young rabbits, cut into 6-8 pieces, ribcages discarded
150g plain flour
125ml olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
2 tbsps small salted capers, rinsed
3 tbsps sultanas, plumped in water for about 5 minutes
200g large green pitted olives, roughly chopped (I left mine whole)
4 tbsps honey
125ml red wine vinegar
750ml chicken stock

‘Preheat the oven to 160C. Lightly coat the rabbit with the flour, seasoned with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan, add the rabbit in batches and brown all over. Remove all the rabbit from the pan.

Add the onion, celery and carrot to the pan and cook for about 10 minutes over medium heat. Add the capers, sultanas and olives and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes.

Put the rabbit pieces in a large roasting tin and tip the onion mixture over the rabbit. Mix together the honey and vinegar and, when the honey has dissolved, pour over the rabbit. Add the stock and season with salt and pepper.

Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1-2 hours, checking the rabbit every 30 minutes. When the meat starts to fall off the bone, the dish is ready.