Monday, 4 January 2016

Stuffat Tal-Fenek, Maltese rabbit stew

See, only a very vague resemblance
First of all, I've decided that all this cooking malarkey is a difficult job to do on my own so I could do with a hand. Please allow me to introduce  my new assistant, Potato Gregg. He's a potato who happens to bear a fleeting resemblance to Cockney reformed football hooligan-cum-modern day greengrocer Gregg Wallace. Potato Gregg will be assisting in my preparation and chipping in to this blog with snippets of wisdom and culinary tips.

"Mr Potato Head doesn't get tougher than this! Cor blimey! Apples 'n' fackin' pears!"

Indeed he doesn't, Potato Gregg. Let's get on with the recipe, shall we?

Despite them being a widespread pest because they breed, well, like rabbits, we don't do much with rabbit in this country. No, because we're a nation of "animal lovers" and the little bunnies are just so cute. I mean, so are lambs, calves and piglets but they don't usually live in your garden (well, unless you're a farmer or small-holder) or indeed your living room (well, unless you get off on that sort of thing) before you eat them. And let's not forget the place of the rabbit in our culture: Peter Rabbit, Bugs Bunny, Brer Rabbit, Watership Down. Then again there's also Frank from Donnie Darko.

"Rabbits don't come any scarier than that Frank. I had nightmares about him. Myxomatosis is too good for that bastard"

Actually, Potato Gregg, I beg to differ. You forget the Rabbit of Caerbannog from Monty Python and the Holy Grail (see clip below) which was far scarier. That rabbit actually brutally murdered people while Frank was merely ominous and looked a bit iffy. Besides, he was clearly a man in a rabbit suit, looking more like Harvey after he left his head too close to the radiator overnight.

Sharp pointy teeth...

All this preamble aside, the point is that rabbit is a fantastic meat: lean, tasty and cheap. It takes a bit of cooking to ensure it's not to tough. It tastes a lot like chicken although this is the description that applies to pretty much any meat when trying to tell other people what it's like. You do wonder what the first person to eat chicken said it tasted like when telling other people how great this new bird that they'd just barbecued was.

Preparation: 30 minutes plus marination (overnight if possible)
Cooking: 3-plus hours on the hob (you could put it in the oven for the same time at 160°C or even do this in a slow cooker)

1 gutted rabbit, cut into 6 or 8 portions
400 ml red wine
4 or 5 bay leaves
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 carrot, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1 stick of celery, finely chopped
1 tin of tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
3-400g potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks

Mix the wine, garlic, bay leaves and black pepper in a dish. Mix well and add the rabbit. Cover, stick it in the fridge and marinate for a good few hours, ideally overnight or as long as possible otherwise.


Heat the oil in a heavy pan and brown the rabbit pieces on all sides, reserving the marinade.

Remove the rabbit with a slotted spoon and put on a plate

Throw the onion and celery into the pan and saute until the onion is cooked. Add the carrot, tomatoes, tomato puree and the reserved marinade.

Heat to a simmer for about10 minutes or so to break down the tomatoes a little

Put in the potatoes and mix well then return the rabbit pieces to the pot

Cover and turn down the heat to a gentle simmer for 3 hours or more.

Ready to serve

Serve with bread to mop up the rich sauce. The meat should be falling off the bone

This recipe is the national dish of Malta. I've never been to this archipelago in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea (not yet, anyway, but it's on my list). I find it surprising that the national dish isn't some sort of seafood, given that it's a collection of small islands where you are never more than a few miles from the sea. Mind you, as a former British colony, maybe, along with the red post boxes, there's an element of British influence in the non-use of easily-obtained fish, as is the case with Brits (and as mentioned, nay ranted on, in a previous blog entry)

I'd expect the rabbit would be prepared by your butcher, but in principle you could make this with something you caught yourself or even roadkill if you're that way inclined. The rabbit I used was cleaned and portioned, but did have its various other organs like liver, kidneys, etc which I kept to enrich the sauce. It was bloody cheap as well at £4 to make a meal sufficient for 4 or more people. Parochial reference again, but I bought it at my favourite butcher, Allums of Wakefield.

If you are bothered about eating something so cute there are two things to think about making them less cute. 1: they are coprophagic and 2: they are, for all intents and purposes, just long-eared, grass-fed rats. Actually, these points may not make actually rabbits more appetising to eat, but at least you can look at them as less cuddly

This dish is called stuffat tal fenek and I've not made one double entendre out of that first word. I'm clearly losing my touch.
Like most stews, the recipe needs to cook long and slow, or else the rabbit would be stringy and chewy.

"Meat don't get any tougher than that!"

Oh, do give it a fucking rest with the catchphrase, Potato Gregg, you tuber-faced twat.


  1. The story we heard when we were on Malta was a delightful one. Apparently, when the Knights Hospitaller were granted the archipeligo in 1530, having been driven out of Rhodes by the Ottomans, they set about lording it over the local population by saying they couldn't trap rabbits… So what did the locals do? A collective one-finger salute ;) Hence the attachment of the Maltese for any dish based on rabbit!

  2. Brilliant! I'm going to enjoy visiting Malta, whenever that might be