Today I want to tackle a tricky subject - the rabbit. Once upon a time there were no rabbits in Australia. Then, in 1788, the First Fleet arrived. The ships carried not only convicts, but also breeding stock for future food – including the rabbit.
By the mid-nineteenth century it became clear that a species spectacularly damaging to the ecology of this large country was on the loose and multiplying faster than you can say “rabbit rabbit rabbit.” Strangely though, it appears that escaped First Fleet rabbits perhaps did not spawn this plague, but that it was the progeny of specimens introduced in 1859 by a wealthy landowner in Victoria called John Austin, who released them on his property to provide future hunting amusement.
Many methods to control the rabbit population have been tried over the decades, including poisons, trapping, biological warfare (myxomatosis and calicivirus) and the building of a (theoretically) rabbit-proof fence in Western Australia. The bad ecological news is that the rabbit still survives here in the wild, but the irony is that it is no longer free bush tucker but an expensive delicacy at the butcher’s – presumably because the rabbits sold there are the cage-reared, disease-free version. Rabbit is now more expensive than rump steak.
In 1938 however, disease-free wild rabbits were there for the taking, and consequently a number of recipes for it were submitted to the Perth newspaper competition.
Take two large rabbits, half a head of celery, two carrots, one onion, salt, pepper, half a pint of milk and two quarts of water. Cut the rabbits up and well wash. Put into saucepan, boil with water about an hour and a half. Take the rabbit out and add the vegetables, salt, pepper and milk. Simmer for two hours. Sufficient for seven people.
Use the meat taken from the soup, a quarter pound of fat bacon, two onions, one teaspoon chopped parsley, half a teaspoonful mixed herbs, four tablespoon flour, salt and pepper. Cut the rabbit and bacon in small pieces, put in a baking dish with chopped onions, parsley, herbs salt and pepper. Mix the flour with two tablespoons cornflour to a thin paste with milk. Pour the mixture into dish bake in moderate oven about an hour.
One rabbit, one oz. gelatine, three peeled tomatoes, one quart stock, sprig parsley, half lemon, three rashers bacon, two onions, two hard boiled eggs, half tablespoon bacon fat and seasoning. Blanch and joint rabbit, place in a sauce- pan with bacon fat, brown lightly all over, add cold water and onion, remove rind from bacon, cut up and add to pan, cover and simmer till rabbit is tender, remove bones, strain and season, add gelatine, dissolved in a little water, add juice of lemon. Decorate mould with slices of hard boiled eggs, and tomatoes and leave till set. Fill up with rabbit, turn out when cold.
Quotation for the Day.
Hare is respectable, even distinguished; rabbit is common and vulgar, and it is good form to turn up the nose at it.