Scot­tish Flavour: rab­bit curry

Sunday Herald Life - - FOOD & DRINK - By Shirley Spear Shirley Spear is owner of The Three Chim­neys and The House Over-By on the Isle of Skye www.three­chim­

AS early sea-far­ing ex­plor­ers dis­cov­ered new con­ti­nents in the 1400s, the lu­cra­tive spice trade de­vel­oped on a world­wide scale. This had a pro­found and last­ing ef­fect upon po­lit­i­cal and cul­tural de­vel­op­ment, par­tic­u­larly in Bri­tain. Few Scots may re­alise that their love of spicy food and curry ex­tends from as far back as the 1700s. In­deed, curry pow­der from In­dia was be­ing sold in an Ed­in­burgh gro­cer’s shop in 1798 and in my 1828 edi­tion of Meg Dods’s Cook And House­wife’s Man­ual, she rec­om­mends the fol­low­ing: “In­stead of us­ing cur­riepow­der as ob­tained in shops, we would ad­vise ev­ery cook to keep the sev­eral in­gre­di­ents, each good of its kind, in well-stopped vials, and to mix them when wanted, suit­ing the quan­ti­ties of the var­i­ous in­gre­di­ents to the na­ture of the dish.”

Scots have loved spiced food for cen­turies and many will cel­e­brate Na­tional Curry Week, which be­gins to­mor­row, with a favourite recipe at home, or a visit to their favourite res­tau­rant. Some would say a “Glas­gae curry” is as punchy as a “Glas­gae Kiss” and there are cer­tainly some fan­tas­tic restau­rants, of many ori­gins, to try in the city.

Meg Dods’ in­struc­tions were brief, but I have at­tempted to repli­cate her recipe for Scots Rab­bit Curry here.

I am not ex­pe­ri­enced in cook­ing cur­ries and so I hope Su­mayya ap­proves of my at­tempt to cre­ate this dish. Rab­bit is a de­li­cious in­gre­di­ent and greatly un­der­rated. It is also widely avail­able – the curse of many gar­den­ers and farm­ers – and in­ex­pen­sive. In my child­hood, rab­bit was fre­quently seen hang­ing up in the butcher’s shop, but now it can be dif­fi­cult to find for sale. A good butcher or game dealer will get it for you, but al­ter­na­tively, you can buy good-qual­ity chicken por­tions for this recipe.

Garam masala is pro­duced by all the com­mer­cial spice-mak­ers and widely avail­able.


(Serves 4-6)

Meat from three wild rab­bits, jointed (ask your butcher to do this if you’re not con­fi­dent)

2 tbsp sieved plain white flour sea­soned lightly with salt and pep­per

6 rash­ers un­smoked streaky ba­con, cut into small pieces

3 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced

1 small bulb fresh fen­nel, washed and chopped into small pieces

Finely grated zest of 1 large or 2 small lemons, plus 2 tbsp squeezed lemon juice

12 but­ton onions, peeled and kept whole

6 fat cloves gar­lic, peeled and roughly chopped

1 thumb-sized piece root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

500ml light chicken or veg­etable stock Ap­prox­i­mately

8 tbsp oil (rape­seed, ground­nut or co­conut)

1½ tbsp garam masala

½ tsp ground turmeric

125ml fresh dou­ble cream

Ex­tra ground sea salt for fi­nal sea­son­ing if re­quired


1. Coat the rab­bit pieces in sea­soned flour and set aside.

2. Peel the onions, cut in half and, with the cut side fac­ing down, slice in thin, half-moon slices from right to left.

3. Place the chopped gar­lic and root ginger in a small blender or grinder with two ta­ble­spoons of wa­ter and whizz to a paste.

4. Take a heavy-based saucepan and heat three ta­ble­spoons of oil. Add the gar­lic and ginger paste, then the spices and stir quickly for 1 minute. Add the sliced onions and turn un­til well coated in this mix­ture. Add the chopped fen­nel and lemon zest and stir again. Con­tinue cook­ing over a low heat, un­til all is soft and suc­cu­lent. Stir from time-to-time tak­ing care not to al­low the mix­ture to stick to the base of the saucepan.

5. While the onions, fen­nel and spices are cook­ing, brown the floured rab­bit pieces in a fry­ing pan in batches, us­ing around four ta­ble­spoons of oil, adding more if re­quired. Once com­plete, add one more spoon­ful of oil and toss the chopped ba­con and but­ton onions in it be­fore re­turn­ing all the browned rab­bit pieces to the fry­ing pan.

6. Pour over the pre­pared, hot stock and al­low to reach boil­ing point. Sim­mer for 2 min­utes and then turn off the heat. Trans­fer this mix­ture into the onions in the large saucepan and stir well. Bring the tem­per­a­ture to boil­ing point, cover with a lid then turn down heat to al­low the meat to sim­mer slowly in the sauce for at least an hour, un­til very ten­der.

7. Add the lemon juice and check for sea­son­ing. You may need a lit­tle more salt. Stir again.

8. Fi­nally, add the dou­ble cream and stir into the curry. Al­low to cook for a few more min­utes to thicken slightly, but take care not to let it split.

9. By the time the meat is thor­oughly cooked, it will be fall­ing off the bone. If you pre­fer, re­move all the bones be­fore spoon­ing the whole curry into a hot dish for serv­ing with lots of fra­grant bas­mati rice.


(Serves 4)

225g bas­mati rice

1 small onion, finely chopped

25g un­salted but­ter, plus 25g for serv­ing

½ tsp salt

2 car­damom pods, cracked

4 whole cloves

½ cin­na­mon stick

1 bay leaf

2 tbsp lemon juice plus enough wa­ter, or light veg­etable or chicken stock, to make up 275ml liq­uid in to­tal


1. Place the rice in a sieve and, while mix­ing it around with your fin­gers, run un­der cold run­ning wa­ter un­til the wa­ter is run­ning clear. Set aside to drain.

2. Peel and chop onion into small pieces.

3. Melt but­ter in a saucepan and add chopped onion. Stir in the but­ter and cook gen­tly un­til the onion is soft and translu­cent.

4. Add the strained rice and stir well. Cook gen­tly in the hot but­ter un­til be­gin­ning to colour.

5. Add the salt, spices and bay leaf. Pour in the hot wa­ter or stock mixed with the lemon juice and bring to boil. Turn down heat, cover with a sheet of alu­minium foil, plus a well-fit­ting lid pressed down on top and sim­mer for 10 min­utes.

6. Af­ter 10 min­utes, turn off heat com­pletely, but DO NOT re­move the lid or foil. Leave cov­ered and undis­turbed for a fur­ther 15 min­utes. The rice will ab­sorb all the liq­uid and be ready to serve af­ter this time.

7. To serve, add 25g but­ter and fluff up the rice with a fork. Trans­fer to a warm serv­ing dish and gar­nish with a fresh bay leaf, or the other half of the cin­na­mon stick, as il­lus­trated.

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