This is a traditional recipe from my homeland of Malta. I know that some people are squeamish about eating rabbit, but it is such a healthy, lean meat. You can buy it from most butchers in the UK, where it is often sold as game since it's wild rabbit. Rabbit stew is to Malta what the roast dinner is to Britain. Traditionally, it's eaten on high days and holidays, and is the perfect meal to get the extended family gathered round the table together (though you would need a big pot and probably more than one rabbit to feed a Maltese family!). Personally, I have fond memories of rabbit stew, as my grandfather farmed rabbits for eating, and the whole family would gather round my Nanna's table to eat the stew. In Malta, everyone has their favourite parts of the rabbit. Mine was always the offal - the liver, heart and lungs. I don't stew those - I fry them in olive oil and eat them separately.
I experimented with the traditional recipe by cooking it in the Instant Pot pressure cooker. This is because wild rabbit, unlike the farmed variety consumed in Malta, is tougher and leaner. Cooking it in the pressure cooker means you don't have to slow-cook it for a couple of hours before it becomes tender. The result of my experiment was a success - the meat was meltingly tender and falling off the bone. However, you can still make this recipe if you don't have a pressure cooker. Simply simmer the stew in a big pot on the stove for two hours, covered.
For the marinade:
1 rabbit, jointed (you can ask your butcher to do this)
½ bottle of red wine
5 cloves of garlic, sliced
5 bay leaves
1 tsp medium curry powder
1 tsp ground allspice
Salt and pepper
For the stew:
3 carrots, chopped finely
2 small onions, chopped finely
3 stalks of celery, chopped finely
1 tbsp tomato paste
7 medium potatoes, divided into eighths
1 can chopped tomatoes
150g frozen peas
Place the rabbit pieces in the marinade ingredients and leave in the fridge for at least 24 hours.
When you wish to cook the rabbit, start off by frying the rabbit pieces in olive oil in a large frying pan until browned all over. Reserve the marinade for the stew.
Put 1-2 tbsp of olive oil in your Instant Pot, and press “Saute”. Add the carrots, onions and celery and a pinch of sea salt and cook until softened. Add the tomato paste and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the liquid from the marinade (with the garlic slices and bay leaves) and leave to bubble for 5 minutes. Add the potatoes, chopped tomatoes, the rabbit pieces, and a cup of water. Place the lid on the Instant Pot, and use the Manual Function to pressure cook the stew for 45 minutes on “High”.
When the 45 minutes are up, turn the pressure release valve to the venting position. Once the pressure is released, uncover and press the “Saute” button again (make sure it’s on low this time), and add the peas. Allow to cook for 15 minutes, then either use the “Keep Warm” function or serve immediately with lots of crusty bread to mop up the lovely juices.
And if you have any leftover sauce and bits of meat, add them to a plate of spaghetti the next day. It's the Maltese equivalent of the British Bubble and Squeak!