This penultimate post on the Top Ten Forgotten British Foods has proved somewhat of a challenge. The Guild of Fine Food Retailers in 2006 did not give much in the way of clarification of this dish, or what justified its choice on the list.
What sprang to my mind immediately was the well-known Scottish dish of Cock-a-Leekie soup – but that is made with old chicken, not rabbit – albeit on a beef stock base. I have touched on this in a previous post (here) and gave a recipe from 1545 for a broth with capons and prunes, so the concept is far from new. Is rabbit the poor-man’s version of chicken?
Mistress Meg Dods (Christian Isobel Johnstone) in The Cook and Houswife’s Manual (1826) gives a recipe, naturally (she being Scots to the core,) for Cock-a-Leekie soup, which we all know contains prunes. Or does it? Mistress Dods’ version does not, although she gives the following variation:
Make this as cock-a-leekie, and thicken with toasted or fried bread. Use fewer leeks. Prunes may be added to this composition.
Nowhere have I found a specific regional British specialty with rabbit and prunes, but I sincerely hope one of you can enlighten me. The best I can do is the following, from one of my favourite cookbooks - Domestic economy, and cookery, for rich and poor, by a lady (1827)
Plum Rice Soups of Fowl, Veal, or Rabbit. (Scotch.)Put any of these into a saucepan, with a sufficient quantity of water; and, after boiling, skimming, and simmering, till there is just time to cook the rice, drop it into the boiling soup, either with the fowl taken out, or not, with a blade of mace, a little lemon-zest, white pepper, salt, and half a pound of prunes, or raisins. Let them cook sufficiently, and dish altogether or separately, as suits; if separately, cover the meat, which ought to be kept whole, unless it is to be fricasseed; or it may be served with a white acidulated parsley, anchovy, caper, or liver sauce poured over it