Maltese rabbit stew – just like papa makes it.

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Today I have super special post for you.  You know that my blog is called merci mama because my mama was the most incredible cook and in our house when I was growing up, every night she would cook us the most amazing meals that usually consisted of an entrée and a main of multiple dishes cooked to absolute perfection. Probably explains why I was a chubby kid.  But once in a blue moon my dad would declare that he would be taking over the kitchen and cooking a feast for the entire family.  You see, my dad can only cook one dish; Maltese rabbit stew. He cooks it incredibly well (and it seriously is the best rabbit I’ve eaten) but he should because it seriously is the only thing I have ever seen him cook in my 32 years.

What I love and have the fondest memories of is the occasion that it became.  Through his contacts he would source the very best rabbit, make a day of going out to pick it up, come home clean the rabbits, get the giant cleaver out and chop it into pieces and marinate it in a bottle of red wine.  I remember watching him with fascination and excitement as I stood on my tippy toes peering over the bench and this incredibly rare sight.  The next morning he would be up at a sparrow’s fart to start cooking the rabbit and we would all be woken to the smell of garlic and wine wafting through the house.  By lunch time the rabbit would be falling off the bone and we would all be gathered around the table waiting licking our lips in anticipation.

So it must have been a blue moon last weekend as we were all treated to my dad’s specialty rabbit stew.  My dad announced a few weeks prior that it was time that he cooked the rabbit and we all excitedly agreed and then proceeded to count down the days.

The best thing I love about this dish is that it is entrée and main in one.  For entrée you serve the sauce stirred through some pasta, not too much as you don’t want to ruin your appetite for the main event, but just enough to get excited for what’s to come.  Then for main you have the rabbit stew served with a simple green salad and some bread to mop up the delectable winey juices.  I’m totally drooling as I write this by the way.  Then you sit back pop the button in your jeans and rub your belly, anticipation completely and utterly satiated.

You’ll have to excuse the photos in this post as I was pressured to get it done as quickly as possible so everyone could chow down (including myself), hence the crappy quality.

Maltese rabbit stew

recipe courtesy of merci mama’s papa!

Serves 4

What you need:

  • 1 rabbit cut into 8 pieces – you can ask the butcher to do this for you
  • 500ml red wine
  • 1 bulb of garlic, finely chopped
  • olive oil
  • 1 bottle of tomato passata
  • 1-2 tsp sugar
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 3 potatoes, cut into bite sized chunks and parboiled
  • 1/2 cup of frozen peas
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 packet of spaghetti or angel hair pasta

What to do:

You will need to start this recipe the day before.

Cut your rabbit into 8 pieces and marinate overnight in red wine ensuring that the rabbit is covered in the wine.

The next day, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a heavy based pan, like a le creuset.  My dad likes to use an electric frypan as he likes to be able to put it on a very low simmer, so you can use this as well if you have one.  Cover the base of the pan with the garlic and cook for a few minutes on low heat, be careful not to burn the garlic.

Put the pieces of the rabbit into the pan and cook until browned.  Take out the rabbit.

Add the bottle of tomato passata and slowly bring it to the boil

Put the rabbit back into the pan.  Add the wine that the rabbit was marinated in and also add the bay leaves.  Add 1 to 2 tsp of sugar to balance the acidity of the tomato. Cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until the rabbit is tender and almost falling off the bone.  Add the carrots and potatoes in the last hour of cooking and towards the end add the peas. Season to taste.

Boil the pasta and for entrée dish up a small serve of pasta mixed with the sauce of the rabbit stew.

For main, serve the rabbit and vegetables with a green salad and some crusty bread to mop up the delicious sauce.


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  • I know just how delicious this meal is – being one of the lucky family benefactors to sit at the table when papa decides only too-rarely to fire up the frypan. Soooooo moreish.

  • George

    My wife and I love Malta and all it encompasses, the rabbit stew is so rustic and to die for. Your simple recipe is 5 star.

    • Thanks George, Malta is such a gorgeous island and I love that you love it too! Enjoy this recipe, I really don’t think I’ve found a rabbit stew better than my dad’s!

  • Kaji-san

    just made the stew for the in-laws with my wife…. 5 star for sure!!!!!!

  • Hayley

    Hi cooked this stew yesterday for my husband who is Maltese descent and had this stew as a child. It was perfect and easy to cook. Had it as a main yesterday and will have the rest with pasta today. A truly authentic dish. Thank you.