This is a recipe which perfectly chimes with the Easter theme for me – a chocolate rabbit – although I actually cooked this in November last year. I found the recipe online when I was trying to pair up rabbit and morcilla (Spanish black pudding) after I found I was in possession of both elements. I believe it originally featured in “The Art of South American Cooking,” by Felipe Rojas-Lombardi, and was republished by Jayne Benet writing in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1992. It’s absolutely fantastic!
On a whim I’d picked up a morcilla from Alex Med, our local epicurean trader who sets up stall at Todmorden market every Saturday, and farmer’s markets around the North West at other times. He runs a cracking pitch representing the best of Mediterranean ingredients: wonderful olives and chillies, coffees, sweets, spices and a host of other delights; and Mister North is a regular of his seasonal goodies.
I love black pudding (something which I’ll no doubt return to in the future, as the local Bury black pudding is a Pennine food gem) and when I’d visited Barcelona with Miss South in 2008 we took full advantage of the local black and red sausages (morcilla and chorizo respectively) to sate our love of all things piggy.
A chance remark to foodie friends resulted, after a few days and receiving a surreptitious phone call, in me picking up two freshly shot rabbits from a local acquaintance. It all felt suitably clandestine, getting a parcel wrapped in plastic passed under the table as we raised a glass in front of the open fire in the local pub. It was only after I’d received this fresh local produce that I realised I’d no idea how I was going to use them. However good ingredients demand some homework, so I found myself looking around for inspiration.
I adapted the ingredients slightly to fit what was in my store cupboard at the time, and I’ve also tweaked the directions to reflect this. I used Willie’s Venezuelan Carenero Superior cacao for the chocolate, which I fortuitously had in already, and I had to use marsala and a splash of rioja as I was all out of port.
The prospect of such an exotic serving provided me with an excuse to call my regular dining compatriots for an impromptu Friday night supper session. We started with a glass of East Kent Goldings Ale from Bare Arts, our local artisanal brewery. I whipped up a quick starter in the Iberio-Pennine theme: slices of bread from Height Top Barn, rubbed with garlic and olive oil, topped with a slice of chorizo, some Calderdale Cheese, and the last good basil leaves of the year.
The results of the main course were absolutely divine: a rich and multi-hued sauce complimenting the tender fresh meat. Served simply with a simple mash and a selection of great Spanish riojas. Actually we had another South American twist to the evening; one of my companions for the night had unwittingly made some great feijoada for her dinner before she received the call for the rabbit, so we enjoyed the classic Brasilian pork and beans on the side. A fantastic meeting of the South Pennines and South America…
Conejo En Salsa De Chocolate
2 rabbits, about 2½ pounds each
1 cup olive oil
2 large smoked garlic clove (peeled, minced)
3 cup finely chopped red onion
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 carrot, peeled and grated
¼ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground cardamom pods
⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup marsala
1 large morcilla (peeled, and finely chopped)
60g 100% cacao / bitter chocolate
2 tbsp runny honey
¼ cup plain flour
8 cups chicken stock
2 dried chipotle chillies
1 tbsp sea salt flakes
3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander (to garnish)
Wipe rabbits inside and out with a damp cloth. Cut each rabbit into 3 sections: hind legs, loin and front legs; separate legs, leaving loin in 1 piece. Add the chipotles to hot water and cover to rehydrate for 20mins or so. Heat olive oil in a saute pan; add rabbit and saute over medium heat for 20 minutes, or until brown on all sides, turning frequently. Set aside. Pour off all but 1/4 cup oil from pan. Add garlic and onions and saute over medium heat, stirring, until onions start to turn golden, about 10 minutes. Add celery, carrot, cloves, cardamom and cayenne.
Add port (or marsala and red wine), stir and cook until evaporated. Add sausages and cook 1 minute. Add chocolate, stir, sprinkle flour on top and cook another minute, stirring. Add 3 cups stock, the chipotles and reserved water, and the salt; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Lower heat; simmer about 25 minutes, until thickened, stirring from time to time. Add remaining stock and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the rabbit pieces.
Lower heat to minimum, cover, and cook for 1 hour and 10 minutes, stirring now and then and scraping bottom of pan, or until rabbit is tender and sauce is enriched and has thickened again. Transfer to a serving platter, sprinkle with coriander, and serve.