It was another Sunday night and what with getting up late, taking Billy Dog for a nice, long walk and then sitting down to tackle my income tax, the day had whizzed by. Dinner time loomed on the horizon, there were really only vegetables in the refrigerator, and no time to go to the store. We frequently have delicious meatless meals based on whatever’s around, but we felt like some sort of meat today.
ThermoHubby John opened the freezer door and pulled out the first thing he put his hand on. A funny shaped package emerged; a plastic bag with some paper-wrapped delicacy inside and a label outside. “Half a rabbit, Hampton Estate” it read, and inside we discovered the saddle and back legs of a local wild rabbit. “Fantastic!” we both called out. The best bits of the beast for the best meal of the week.
I was cooking that night and there began another one of what I call our Sunday Night Invention Tests. Yes, dear readers, MasterChef had just started on BBC One, so we were taking ourselves and our cooking rather too seriously! But when you think of it, other than the fact that I did not impose any time constraints on myself – and that Greg Wallace and John Torode weren’t in my kitchen – I was actually undergoing a MasterChef-style Invention Test. I had a fridge full of ingredients to choose from, no pre-planned menu, and I even had a mystery ingredient that made itself available to me straight from the freezer.
The saddle of the rabbit – the tender bits on either side of the back bone – is a succulent morsel which can be cooked in many ways. Grilled, pan fried, braised, you name it – it comes out gorgeous. The legs are also beautifully meaty and lend themselves to braising, slow cooking and even potting. I yearned to transform my saddle of rabbit with the help of my trusty Thermomix (come on now, you can’t really be surprised) so I decided to use up a heel of homemade bread and stuff and roll the saddle and then steam it before colouring the outside in a hot frying pan. And while my roulade of rabbit was steaming in the Varoma steamer I would steam some parsnips and a few aromates and then blend them into a smooth and creamy purée. As well as the steamed roulade and purée, I would braise the legs to serve with some sautéed mushrooms and a rich sauce to tie it all together.
I didn’t reduce my sauce enough – it’s my impatient streak showing its ugly head again – but other than that, my dinner was delicious and my trusty Thermomix pulled its weight and amazed me once again. If you don’t happen to have a half rabbit in your freezer you can of course stuff and roll a chicken breast or two, a turkey breast, a veal cutlet, or a lovely lamb neck filet – to name but a few possibilities that come to mind. Rabbit legs can make way for chicken legs, for instance. If you don’t have parsnips, carrots or celeriac will make a gorgeous purée, too.
What follows now is not so much a recipe as a method, or a list of procedures. Go with the flow; use your Thermomix to help you unleash your creativity and empty your fridge!
Make a stuffing with some bread, shallots or onions, garlic, herbs such as rosemary or thyme, salt and pepper. Chop a few seconds in your Thermomix on Speed 5 or 6 until you get the consistency you want: rough chopped or finely grated.
Put the rabbit legs (or chicken legs or whatever) to braise by colouring them in a pan with some hot oil; add a large dash of white wine and gently cook until tender.
Meanwhile, open out and flatten your meat and place it on a large piece of cling film/plastic wrap. Season with salt and pepper, place your stuffing on the meat and start rolling it up. Roll your stuffed meat into a cling film-wrapped cylinder and twirl the ends.
Prepare your vegetables and put them into the internal steaming basket. I used parsnips and a bit of celery for the purée, plus some whole Chantenay carrots as an additional vegetable, all in similar sized pieces so they cook evenly and in the same amount of time.
Add about a litre of water and up to a tablespoon of salt to your Thermomix bowl. Insert the internal steamer basket and put the lid on. Place your roulade into the Varoma steamer and place the Varoma on top of your Thermomix. Steam on Varoma setting/30 minutes/Speed 2. During this time, check your braised legs, slice and sauté your mushrooms, reduce your sauce and finish it with butter. Oh, and you’ll probably have time to set the table and pour a couple of glasses of wine while Thermomix cooks your dinner
Unwrap your roulade and colour it on all sides in a hot pan with some butter and oil. Set aside the roulade to rest while you heat and purée your vegetables with a slosh of milk and a lump of butter, 100° C/2 minutes/Speed 10.
Meanwhile, slice your roulade and heat some plates. Assemble your dish with a bed of purée topped with slices of roulade, artfully arranging your other components and gracing your creation with sauce.
Bon appétit !