Sicilian rabbit

A signature dish by Francesco Mazzei, this rabbit recipe was inspired by a meal cooked for the chef by his in-laws in Sicily, as he recounts: "We had a dish of sardines with sweet and sour sauce. After we finished the sardines we had rabbit as a main course and there was all the sauce still left on the plate, so I was dipping the rabbit in the sauce - it was phenomenal! I thought I'm going to come up with a rabbit dish that will be equally phenomenal".

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For the filling


For the reduction

Mashed potato



  • Vac pac maker
  • Water bath
  • Mouli
  • Steam oven


Start by removing the offal (kidneys and liver) and excess fat from the rabbit. Joint it into 5 pieces (2 shoulders, 2 legs and the saddle). Cut the remaining bone/spine and offcuts into approximately 14 pieces. Reserve the bones, off-cuts and offal for later
  • 1 rabbit, whole, 1.3kg in weight
Preheat the oven to 83°C, or use a thermometer and pot on the stove for step 3 if the oven does not have very accurate settings
Place the shoulder and leg pieces in a deep oven tray, generously season with salt and pepper and cover with the olive oil. Cook in the oven for 3 hours, checking the rabbit from time to time ensure that the meat is not coming off the bone. Remove and allow to cool in the oil
To make the stock, wash, peel and roughly cut all of the vegetables into large chunks. Place a large saucepan over a high heat and add the oil. Once the oil is very hot, add the chicken, rabbit bones and off-cuts
Once the bones are browned, deglaze the pan with white wine. Add the vegetables and the bay leaf and cover with ice-cold water to come up 5cm above the bones. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer and reduce by 3/4 - this will take approximately 2 hours
  • 100ml of white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
To make the filling, finely cut the rabbit offal (liver and kidney) and pancetta. Mix in a bowl with the garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper and set aside. Place the saddle, skin-side down on a large sheet of catering-grade cling film
Arrange the offal and pancetta filling down the middle of the saddle and roll it tightly in the cling film, tying off both ends to seal. Vacuum pack and place into a steam oven or water bath at 83°C degrees for 40 minutes, turning over after 20 minutes. Once ready, cool down in a blast chiller or a large ice bath
To prepare the reduction, place the vinegar, sugar and thyme in a pan over a high heat. Leave to simmer until you reach the consistency of a syrup, ensuring it does not burn. Add the double concentrated tomato paste and stir through
Add the reduction into the rabbit stock and simmer until you reach the consistency of a light sauce
To make the mash, wash the potatoes, add to a saucepan and cover with cold water. Add 1 tablespoon of salt, bring to the boil and cook until tender - this should take approximately 10-15 minutes
Once the potatoes are ready, drain and peel while still warm. Pass them through a mouli straight-away and season with olive oil and salt. Set aside until required
  • 50g of olive oil
  • salt
Preheat the oven to 180˚C/gas mark 4
Wash and trim the baby beetroot and place each one on a small bed of rock salt within a square of tin foil. Loosely wrap the foil around the beetroots and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until just tender. Remove and allow to cool slightly, then cut in half lengthways
Peel and trim the carrots, leaving a little of the tops intact for presentation. Place a pan over a medium-high heat and add enough olive oil to just about coat the base of the pan. Once hot, add the fennel seeds and allow to sizzle for 30 seconds, then add the carrots and sauté until lightly brown. Season to taste and set aside
Once ready to serve, slice the saddle into 2cm thick pieces and pan-fry both sides until nicely coloured all over
Add the shoulder and leg pieces to the sweet and sour jus. Then, once the meat is nice and glazed, add the olives, sultanas, pickled onions, a few drops of vinegar and to finish, the chopped marjoram. Adjust with salt if needed
  • 70g of olives, Taggiasca, cut in half
  • 20g of sultanas, previously soaked in warm water
  • 4 pickled onions, Borettana
  • marjoram, chopped
To plate, place a small quenelle of mashed potato onto each plate. Add 2 pieces of saddle (one on top of the mash) and divide the legs and shoulders between the plates. Sauce all around and garnish with your sautéed baby vegetables. Finish with pine nuts, crushed pistachios and chervil before serving

Francesco Mazzei reminds us why we fell in love with Italian food in the first place, conjuring soulful dishes that put flavour first.

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