Monday, 4 June 2012

Damn you Peter Rabbit! A rabbit had babies in my garden ... now what?

A rabbit has had babies in our garden.

Let me clarify, this is not a longed for pet pregnancy. It is a wild rabbit and no I don't live in the UK. I live on Sydney's North Shore, so what on earth is a rabbit and her babies doing in our garden?

We live next door to a lovely big park and, for as long as we have lived here, a very pretty brown rabbit has occassionally popped under the fence and into our garden.

This displeased me enormously because I was trying to start a veggie garden and the bloody rabbit kept eating my lettuces!

So, whenever we saw her we would chase her out under the fence and block up the hole she had come in.

But lately I've been a bit slack.

I've abandoned my veggie garden in favour of a herb garden and there is mint enough for everyone to share (including the rabbit), it's been raining a lot and frankly I've been a bit lazy about my rabbit chasing.

Now I'm paying the price.

Yesterday I noticed three divine, fluffy, tiny little brown rabbits in our backyard, as well as the big (now Mummy) one. I went out and followed them and it turns out the mother has dug a BURROW (!!!) under our back shed and that's where she and the babies live.

Now what am I supposed to do?? The babies are insanely cute but I have enough babies of my own to look after and I really don't want an ever-multiplying family of rabbits living in my garden.

But I don't want to kill them either (although a friend of mine has just opened a restaurant, Hartsyard, and they do all kinds of interesting things with meat so perhaps I could sell them the rabbits ...) so putting a running hose down the burrow isn't an option.

Should I call the council? would they care? should I catch them and give them away as pets?

When I was little I used to feel so sorry for poor little Peter Rabbit, always being chased by the mean farmer, but now my sympathy is definitely with the poor old farmer.

So, I'm at a bit of a loss as to what to do. Really, I just want them to go and live at the park next door like a good little rabbit family.

In the mean time here is a recipe for rabbit stew from The Saucy Onion .... and all suggestions for what to do about the rabbits are incredibly welcome!!

Recipe: Rabbit Stew


1 farmed rabbit,1.2 kg (or wild if you can get hold of one) jointed
2 tablespoons plain flour, for dusting
250g smoked pancetta, cut into lardons
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 large carrots, diced
4 celery sticks, diced
4 potatoes, halved
2 fresh bay leaves
 2 sprigs of thyme ( more if you like its woodiness)
500 ml chicken stock ( homemade if you have a stash)
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
salt and freshly ground black pepper
boiling water

Set the oven to 120 degrees celsius.
Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a casserole pot and gently fry the pancetta until it crisps and releases a little of its porky fatty juices. Transfer the pancetta to a warm plate.
Now lightly dust the rabbit pieces in flour and brown them being careful not to crowd the pot. Place the rabbit pieces with the pancetta.If you have any burnt bits of flour in your pot wipe clean with some paper towel.
Heat the other tablespoon of olive oil  in the pot and sweat your onions, carrots, celery, thyme and bay leaves until they are translucent without any colour, about ten minutes.
Now add your red wine vinegar and honey and reduce by half.
Throw in your chicken stock, return your rabbit pieces and pancetta and check for seasoning. Throw in your potatoes, add enough water to just cover the rabbit and bring to the boil.
Take off the heat and cook gently in the oven for 1 and 1/2 hours or until rabbit is very soft. (I removed all the saddle and breast pieces and left the legs in for another 40 minutes until they were very tender. Cooking times will vary depending on the size of your critter)
Serve the stew hot with some rice, polenta or just on its own.

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