I've moved to oliverthring.com. You should be linked automatically: if not - click here.


Sicilian Sweet and Sour Rabbit [Recipe]

This is taken from My Cousin Rosa, by the Australian-Sicilian writer Rosa Mitchell. Her publisher, Murdoch, sent me the book. It has some really lovely recipes: preserved artichokes, borlotti bean soup, how to make salami; as well as probably Sicily's most famous meat dish, falsomagro - stuffed, rolled beef. (Mitchell spells it 'farsomagro', and I can't believe she does so accidentally. Are they two different things?)

Coniglio agro dolce hopped out at me straight away. 'Sweet and sour' generally conjures up terrifying images of MSG gloop from The Peking Palace, but that's most unfair. The flavours here work in synchrony, nor harsh nor grating, and rabbit stands up well to them.

Mitchell recommends cooking the flopsies in a covered roasting tin, but I used a casserole. I also had the oven at 180, because I'm impatient. We had some crusty bread on the side - I might have cooked a savoury polenta cake if I'd had more time - and baby English courgettes which I cut into long, thin slices, seasoned, then griddled with olive oil, some chopped red chilli, a squeeze of lemon and a little Microplaned pecorino.


Serves 6-8

2 young rabbits, cut into 6-8 pieces, ribcages discarded
150g plain flour
125ml olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
2 tbsps small salted capers, rinsed
3 tbsps sultanas, plumped in water for about 5 minutes
200g large green pitted olives, roughly chopped (I left mine whole)
4 tbsps honey
125ml red wine vinegar
750ml chicken stock

'Preheat the oven to 160C. Lightly coat the rabbit with the flour, seasoned with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan, add the rabbit in batches and brown all over. Remove all the rabbit from the pan.

Add the onion, celery and carrot to the pan and cook for about 10 minutes over medium heat. Add the capers, sultanas and olives and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes.

Put the rabbit pieces in a large roasting tin and tip the onion mixture over the rabbit. Mix together the honey and vinegar and, when the honey has dissolved, pour over the rabbit. Add the stock and season with salt and pepper.

Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1-2 hours, checking the rabbit every 30 minutes. When the meat starts to fall off the bone, the dish is ready.'


  1. I found this:

    The etymology of the word farsumagru is interesting: many cookery books in both Italian and English state that it is Sicilian dialect for "falsomagro" ["false thin"] which makes little sense unless it is an example of the kind of joke Sicilians love - a dish which you think is a modest one turns out to be fit for a banquet. [There is little in it that could make you fat so I don't think the joke is to do with the "thin" part of the word.] Mary Taylor Simeti, in Sicilian Food, is of the opinion that the word is a corruption of French farce maigre, meaning a meatless stuffing and this seems more likely, with meat being added later when the chefs of the rich refined the dish. As Simeti points out, farsumagru is really a very large involtino.


  2. I have My Cousin Rosa sitting on my shelf waiting to be reviewed (there's a very long queue!). I might give this a try soon. Although I've never been that keen on sweet and sour anything, I do like rabbit...

  3. mmmm flopsy! Yum yum yum. One of my favourite meats. This is an intriguing recipe. I love the sweet and sour Sicilian vibe, like caponata I guess.

  4. Andrzej - Thanks! Well spotted.

    Helen - I know what you mean about the cookery books... Try the falsomagro / farsumagru / whatever - it looks very interesting.

    Helen - You're right - can't fault a bit of bunny. I should have mentioned caponata, you're right.

  5. FYI - Farsumagru is Sicilian dialect which does in fact translate to something like "fake lean". The idea is that it is something that might look like a lean dish - because the meat you use should generally be a lean cut - but once you cut inside you find that it has a heavy filling, hence a sort of "surprise" - it's not a lean dish after all. Also, just a bit of history - the dish was originally brought over to Sicily from Spain in the 5th century A.D., and then became a core part of the traditional cuisine from Palermo, and is now popular all over Sicily. Note it is also served throughout Italy, but outside of Sicily is simply called
    braciolone, which means something like "big chop".

  6. Hi Oliver,

    What a fantastic looking recipe. I'm defrosting the rabbit I have in my freezer as I write. Will let you know how it goes. Wonderful photos too!

    Keep up the good work,