Monday, 8 October 2012

Bunny Biryani



Before I start, I'm sorry, Rachel and Christine, two of my best bunny-loving friends. I should be sentenced to a diet of carrots for the rest of my life to make up for my sin, for laying my hands on these innocent, long-eared, wide-eyed creatures. But, let me try make a case for myself and all the generations of rabbit-eaters before me.

Wild rabbits are actually one of the most sustainable, ethical, and wholesome things you could eat. Put aside all thoughts of the Fluffy you cuddle at night. They are in fact farmers' pests, feeding enthusiastically on and damaging millions worth of crops. And the country is teeming with them. If you paid attention to Miss Chng in Biology class, you would have learnt that they breed with ferocious passion and gusto. Rabbit has been a British staple for centuries, especially during the World War, because it was cheap and plentiful, but it fell out of favour when people could better afford other sorts of meat, especially as factory-farmed beef and battery-caged chickens came into the picture. Horrible mass-produced meat aside, even the most humanely-reared, corn-fed, free-range chickens put an extra strain on the Earth's resources. The rabbit population, on the other hand, needs to be controlled to maintain the balance in nature.

To make you feel even better, their truly free-range lifestyle and wild diet mean that their meat is very lean, healthy and flavoursome. You can do your bit by plopping them into your pot of stew or curry, or in this case, making biryani out of them. I find chilli and spices a must when I cook game because I'm not the biggest fan of gamey smells (see chinese-style braised venison and pot-roasted pheasant with kimchi). 

This biryani here is made in a very similar fashion to the Indian hyberbadi biryani, but is really more inspired by fond memories of the nasi biryani my mum would buy me when she picked me up from school. The 'nasi' here is a Malay word for rice, and 'biryani' an Indian word to explain the cooking process, another sign of the culinary mishmash of cultures in Singapore-- one that is described as mamak cuisine back home.

Biryani has a notorious reputation of being difficult to cook, but really, it's a very convenient one-pot dinner that will happily feed the masses, old and young. The ingredient list is long I admit, but once you have them, it's just a matter of bunging them all together. The most difficult bit is perhaps, convincing them to eat Bugs Bunny. I've tried my best, but if all that still doesn't convince, you could replace the rabbit here with lamb, or chicken, which is what it tastes like anyway, just with less fat and a stronger flavour. It's too yummy to pass up.




BUNNY BIRYANI 
(with help from a mamak stall owner and the ancient Indian chef that Padma Lakshmi interviewed)
Ingredients
1 whole wild rabbit, on the bone (about 800g)
3 cups basmati rice, soaked for 30 min or more and drained
1 tbsp sea salt
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
3 tbsp melted ghee  (i.e. clarified butter, preferably from happy cows)
2 handfuls of fried onions
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint and coriander
pinch of saffron, soaked in warm water or milk (this colours and flavours the rice golden. I don't like to use artificial colourings, so there's no jovial mix of fluorescent orange and yellow in my biryani)

for the marinade
1 cup whole organic yogurt
2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste (to make, just blend a 50-50 mix of each)
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves
10 cardamom pods
1 tbsp red chilli powder
2 tsp turmeric
2 green chillies, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint and coriander
juice of 1 lemon 
handful of fried onions, crushed
2 tbsp melted ghee
1 tsp sea salt

Method
1. First, if the rabbit's not already jointed, watch this brilliant video 3 times and joint your rabbit. It's in fact easier to joint than a chicken.
2. Coat the rabbit pieces in the marinade and leave overnight in the fridge. The next day, remove from the fridge and let it come to room temperature before proceeding.
3. Bring a pot of water to the boil, with the salt, bay leaf and cinnamon. Parboil the rice i.e. it should be only 70% cooked. Drain.
4. Pre-heat oven to 170 degrees celsius. In a heavy-bottomed oven-safe pot with a tight lid, place the marinated rabbit at the base of the pot. Cover with a layer of about half of your par-cooked rice. Then scatter half the fried onions, mint and coriander over. Repeat the layering, and then finally finish by drizzling ghee and the saffron liquid all over.
5. Cover tightly (traditional purists will even seal with a blob of dough) and let cook in the oven for 45 min.



When ready, uncover and fork through, tossing the succulent meat together with the golden rice to release all that steam and spicy aromatic fumes. I know the ingredients list seems daunting, but there is not much actual work involved, and most of the time required is really just for the rabbit to sit, tenderise and absorb all the deliciousness from the marinade. And if you must grumble about that 15-20 minutes of active kitchen time, just think of the end results. Scrumptious rabbit, and of course, the real star of the show, the rice-- loose and flowing and filled with the perfume of spices and flavour from the meat (and bones).

Now if that whole paragraph above couldn't convince the bunny-eater in you, I hope this biryani does.

This was also posted on the Great British Chef blogfacebook page, and sparked up a happy debate and more ideas on cooking rabbit. 

61 comments:

  1. Just not sure I could... I'm such a wuss! Pretty sure Hugh FW did a bunny curry in the Guardian magazine on Saturday: great minds think alike!

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    1. I want to lay my hands on that bunny curry recipe now! No you're not a wuss, you just need to try your first rabbit and then you'll be converted ;)

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  2. Love biryani but have never had a rabbit version! Or a rabbit anything for that matter. The finished product looks fantastic though :)

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    1. Thanks! You need to go try your first rabbit anything!

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  3. This looks so good. I've never tried rabbit (calling them bunny just makes it even harder). It would be a bit of a challenge for me but I'd like to try some day. I saw Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's tandoori rabbit in the Guardian too! Bunnies everywhere at the moment.

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    1. Ok seems like I must go find the hfw rabbit recipe now! I'm sorry, i was going for the alliteration....

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  4. If I can find a boy with a gun I might be brave enough to make this. Which really isn't that hard when you live in the country and your neighbor's son likes to hunt rabbit. I just need to get him to skin it. I can deal with the gutting if I have to. If not I can be a wimp and use chicken. :)

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    1. so this is what neighbours are for eh? ;) there are actually videos on youtube showing you how to skin rabbits but thankfully I didn't have to go there. I don't think i could stand that myself, yet.

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  5. I luuuurve bunny [as you might have gather from my Satay Rabbit post ;) ]....so delicious! Rabbit is perfect with spices and I think this biryani dish sounds and looks wonderful...If I close my eyes, I can just imagine tasting it...nom nom nom (sorry Christine hehe!)

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    1. yah your nonya sauce was delicious, nom nom!

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  6. I love to eat bunnies but they are just not as readilly available as they should be. Your biryani looks awesome - a no mess. no fuss one pot wonder :)

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    1. I guess I'm lucky because here in the uk, it's pretty easy to get hold of, esp since I work in the farmers' market! Yes, biryani is a wonderful one-pot meal, maybe you could get some chicken or lamb to try this out anyway (:

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  7. Oh, yay, I've got a bunny in the freezer. This looks great.

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    1. hah, that's not sth you often hear someone say...

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  8. looks gorgeous! and i have no qualms eating bunnies! despite the fact that i loved bugs bunny. m x

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  9. For those of you who don't think you could deal with the whole rabbit ... if I can do it, ANYONE can. I had my first rabbit a couple weeks ago, watched the video twice and sectioned and cleaned the rabbit with ease. And ... the meat is truly wonderful! Shu Han, thank you for a new recipe for me to try on the next rabbit purchase!

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    1. Hear hear! I thought I couldn't do it too, but it really wasn't too difficult! Thanks susan, let me know how the biryani turns out on your next rabbit purchase!

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  10. ohmy thanks for monochroming the rabbit shot. eating it is one thing.. but having to cut up the whole rabbit urself... arghhhh

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    1. Yah, I decided everything looked too...pink. I skyped rachel yesterday hur. She didn't kill me.

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    1. In singapore or malaysia I guess there's no way of getting wild rabbits! But maybe you can try it anyway with chicken or lamb because the flavours are great and it's a simple one-pot dish for the whole family (:

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  12. We were talking just the other day about eating rabbit and how good it is. I have the blighters in my garden for goodness sake so if I catch one I will be making this! It looks beautiful and I do love biriyani. Fab photos, drawings and recipe as always. You really must write a book!

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    1. I can imagine how extra wonderful this will taste to you and the viking because you've probably suffered all the damage caused by these pesky things! aw thanks dom, I would love to if I could, hah x.

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  13. Very, very well said, Shu Han! I will never ever touch rabbit bred in a cage because I had a big rabbit pet for several years (and because I don't eat animals kept like prisoners in cages), but wild rabbits are for me as edible and huntable as wild goose or any game. Unfortunately, wild rabbits are practically impossible to get here...(By the way, in Spain rabbit is extremely popular)
    I know wild rabbits are horrible pests. Apparently grey squirrels are horrible pests in UK. I have heard it's served in several places in London and I intend to taste it during my next visit. (Apparently grey squirrels are not native to the UK, they are very aggressive and put down the number of native, kind red squirrels...).
    Anyway, your biryani sounds and looks excellent. I would happily invite myself for a dinner at your house ;-)

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    1. Yes I heard it's used in authentic paella! About grey squirrels, a friend from the farmer's market makes squirrel pie out of them. He caused quite the stir, and even had the China news come interview him! I've heard only good things about his pies though, so can imagine they worked great.

      If you ever come over to London, I would definitely love to have you over x

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    2. Beware! I might really accept your invitation ;-) Seriously, I would certainly visit your market ;-)

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  14. Looks fantastic Shuhan - I have no qualms about eating bunny. I always think it's terribly hypocritical to eat meat but shun certain animals because "d'aww, they're so cute!" :p. That said, I've only had rabbit a few times in my life, and only actually enjoyed it once. Should really try it again... it's been a while, and it's so cheap too - thanks for the inspiration!

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    1. Oh Charles, that's exactly what I'm trying to say here. Pigs and chickens are just as cute and if you have no qualms eating them, why should you about rabbit?

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  15. i am a fan of rabbit, and now that the temps have cooled significantly, i have been on the look out for them at the farmer's market. i like them stewed but your biryani looks gorgeous.

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  16. I say yes to rabbit!! In a stew, in a barbeque, with rice ummm this meat is really gooood. Never heard about biryiani before but this bunny (bunny?? Ha ha ha) biryani looks super delicious!!!

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    1. Biryani is a dish of Indian origin, think of it like a paella but with lots of spices and looser rice (:

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  17. Interesting combination, SH!

    Rabbit is not readily available here in Singapore, so I will stick to my favourite mutton biryani at Dunlop Street.

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  18. I have no problems eating rabbits but I'll have a problem chopping a rabbit up myself! haha I love any kind of biryani so I'll definitely gobble this one down too!

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    1. Heh, well if you can chop a chicken you defnitely can chop a rabbit!

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  19. Okay, who's going to post the first horse meat grill recipe? I had it in Brazil many years ago. Guess what, it's pretty darn good. And people, for heaven's sake stop calling those pests bunnys.

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    1. Well, sorry, I was going for the alliteration heh. I have never had horse meat before...hmmm..... interesting.

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  20. I adore ghee (and Biryani) so I won't make any *bones* about it. Looks delicious, wonderfully spiced, and oh-so-comforting! I hope your friends forgive you bc this is a beautiful dish!

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    1. Hah I skyped rachel the other day and we're still friends ;)

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  21. The last rabbit dish I had was it braised with shallots and finished with brandy. OOF. Rich but delicious. This looks great.

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  22. I luuurve bunny, and you don't see that many recipes floating about, they are usually boring Med ones with wine and olives etc, so I will DEFINITELY be trying this! Rabbit is so cheap and like you say ethical so why not eat it?! It's not so cute once the rabbit suit is off so what's the problem?! Thanks!

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    1. hah i like the way you think about it as just a cute rabbit suit. glad this recipe has been inspiring, yes I just find it a pity there aren't more recipes floating around for people to try (and then change their minds!)

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  23. You crack me up Lady! I can still remember being 14 yrs old and talking to my then friend, now husband , on the phone. Him in Tennessee, me in Ontario. Him, saying he just had rabbit stew - Me, welling up with tears and looking at my two fluffy dwarf bunnies, Brown Sugar and Thumper - and feeling heartache. Let's just say bunny dishes aren't popular where I'm from. That said, I think you've done a great job at explaining why rabbit is a good meat to consider. Well done on all counts :)

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    1. They aren't too popular in most places to be honest, at least today. I'm sure they were eaten a lot more a few centuries ago. Thanks, hope one day you get over your fears about rabbit!

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  24. This is one type of meat that i have never had and dont think i going to try it out...hehehe..

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  25. yummy looking biryani for sure, BUT i'll pass on the meat. eeeks!

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  26. Rabbit is bloddy lovely isn't it? Along with pheasant it's probably my favourite meat to use in Indian style spicy food. the meat is tasty enough to stand up to all those warm spices and the it suites the saucy style of cooking. I've never tried it with a biryani (or indeed pilaf) before, but i bet it's ace. AND I get to help the countryside out. SO full of WIN.

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    1. I like most game with spices really, because I'm not a fan of that gamey smell. But YES to the full of win part haha. I like how you said you're helping the countryside out.

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  27. Oh I have always been a big fan of the rabbit, delicious! Why have I never thought of cooking it in a biryani......love the idea!

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  28. Great post! Totally with you on eating rabbits - but where to find them if you don't have time to go hunting in the wild?!

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    1. I forgot to mention that your little drawing really reminds me of Watership Down. Was that your inspiration by any chance?!

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    2. heh ashamed to say I haven't even read watership down before..

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  29. We had this tonight and it was absolutely bloody excellent - thank you so much.

    I agree with everything you say about eating rabbit: I know they're being shot as pests within a mile of here, but for some reason they're absolutely impossible to get hold of... I imagine you just have to be part of that world. I refuse to buy farmed rabbits (what a bizarre idea) so I used a mixture of mutton and lamb tonight.

    I pretty much followed it to the letter and it turned out an absolutely delicious meal - to my mind that's the very definition of a good recipe, so thank you!

    I felt it needed a bit of veg so I added some cauliflower florets, a couple of diced tomatoes, some mushrooms and some diced up green beans. That worked well.

    Thanks again!

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    1. Agree about farmed rabbit, totally bizzare esp since it conjures in my mind the image of actual pet rabbits. Yikes.

      Great stand-in using mutton and lamb anyway, and so glad it worked out to be yummy! ANd I love my veggies too, I had extra veg curry on the side (: Next time I'll just do as you do and add it all to the same pot, save me a bit of work.

      Anyway, YAYYY! always really pleased to hear from people who have tried my recipes!

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  30. this is fantastic. even most indians cant make briyani like this!! it looks amazing..almost my exact recipe except i also add chopped pandan to the marinade and when i boil the rice, i add some ghee, cloves and fennel seed to the boiling water too. i also make toasted garam masala and add that to the marinade instead of the whole spices you use.

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    1. Wow I'm properly pleased to hear this compliment! Pandan sounds like a great idea- will definitely try that for extra fragrance. And homemade garam masala sounds brilliant.

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