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July 11, 2014 4:31 pm
Last week I suggested that Puglia majored in vegetables but meat was a subsidiary module. There was certainly not much in evidence in the market in Ostuni. A short walk around several corners, however, led us to a serious butcher. The refrigerated counter included bits of horse, sausages, goat, beef and pork, all of apparently peerless quality. On the shelf behind was a range of salami, that made from donkey eliciting special interest from members of our party.
Scroll down for method and ingredients
Despite this plenitude, I was on a mission. I wanted rabbit. My request for coniglio was met in the most affirmative terms. There was a little chortle from the gentleman at the back of the shop. I was shown a magnificent plump rabbit. After consultation with my host I resolved that we needed three such beauties. The gentleman at the back chortled even louder and might even have stamped his foot with pleasure. I asked what provoked this glee. They were his rabbits and he only brought them in this morning. When did he kill them? This morning, of course, all 20. Since it was still only 10.30am, those bunnies must have met their fate long before sunrise but, judging by their condition, hitherto they must have lived a happy life.
I was hoping to barbecue the bunnies but the weather did not sanction it. I stewed them with pasta instead. I apologised to a local restaurateur who had come for dinner, saying that I knew it was bad form to serve pasta with the main course. Nonsense, he said, down here we do it all the time. He may have been being polite.
We bought the orecchiette, made by hand that morning. A day later we wandered through Bari, sightseeing, and happened on a little lane where trays of freshly made pasta – almost all orecchiette – were placed outside small dark doorways. An old lady popped out of one of them and beckoned us in to watch her at work. An even older lady was sitting at the table, rolling out cylinders of dough for the first lady to cut and shape into little ears with extraordinary dexterity. There was barely enough room for us all in the tiny space but we were duly photographed with these artisans and felt like intrepid pioneers. As we made our goodbyes and obligatory little purchases, the first lady thanked us for coming and then vouchsafed the information that “Jamie Oliver was here last year”. We felt a little less intrepid after that.
Indolence, lack of equipment and theft of one or two ingredients by my fellow cook led me to improvise this dish. I think we were all pleased with the result. I have scaled it down to a meal suitable for six.
|1||plump rabbit, weighing at least 1.8kg|
|1||bunch spring onions|
|1||sprig of rosemary|
|3||strips of lemon peel|
Negroamaro from Salice Salentino (the heel of the boot) can be surprisingly temperate and mineral with a salty tang. Best served cool but perfect for the piquant rabbit.
Rowley Leigh is the chef at Le Café Anglais
Photograph: Andy Sewell
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