Thursday, July 15, 2010
Ok - For all the non-Malteasers out there - Fenkata can be translated to a meal (with a large group of people) where Rabbit is consumed in large quantities, mostly out. Only in Maltese could one have a word for something like that :)
From what I know, the origins of the Fenkata was that the Maltese were not allowed to eat rabbits when the knights ruled the island, whilst the knights used to hunt them and eat them at will. They were allowed to during "Imnajra" (more info on that awesomely bizarre feast here) though, and they used to make the most of it. I like to think that it was our Maltese "what? you say we can't have it? well screw you! we're not only going to have it but it will be a Maltese tradition from now on" attitude that gave birth to such a tradition :D
There were a few steps I took before the fenkata;
- Ordered 2 rabbits from a good farmer, we have one living 3 doors away so that was easy enough :) we ordered them the week before, she killed them in the morning and brought them to us skinned (but whole) that afternoon. Dad was kind enough to chop them up into bits for me :)
- Ask someone you KNOW makes awesome rabbit for their version of the fenkata. I asked my nanna :)
- Invite 4-5 people per rabbit you order - Fenkata is meant to be loud, filling and fun.
All the above steps are very important! :)
Now to prepare zee wabbit! :) For a proper fenkata, there are actually 2 ways of cooking the rabbit. The boney bits (head, rib cages and the offal) flavour a more saucy stew to serve with spaghetti as a starter, and the meaty bits (back and front legs, meaty back pieces) are cooked in wine and garlic, and served with crusty bread and potatoes.
Equipment - you will need a large frypan (i used an electric one) 1 medium-large saucepan, 1 large flameproof casserole dish/large sauce-pot, 1 large pot for cooking plenty of pasta in, and stuff to roast potatoes.
2 whole rabbits, cut into large-ish portions (as stated above).
Some red wine vinegar
2 heads of garlic, chopped roughly (it will pretty much dissolve after stewing)
2 large onions, cut in half then sliced lengthways
4 or 5 bayleaves
1 teaspoon "hwawar tal fenek/rabbit seasoning"
3 heaped tablespoons Kunserva (tomato paste is an exceptable substitute)
2 bottles dry dark red wine (nero d'avola or a Shiraz is ideal)
Mediterranean seasalt, heaps of it
Good olive oil
A heap of nice waxy potatoes
pepper, a few sprigs of rosemary.
750g-1kg spaghetti (i like the thicker spaghettoni for this recipe).
2 tins of marrowfat peas
Grated cheese to serve- I used parmiggiano but kefalotiri or pecorino would do also :)
One large hobza Maltija (or a large fresh white sourdough loaf if not in Malta) to serve
IN THE MORNING:
Wash the rabbit with vinegar. If you do this you won't need to marinade it. Nanna swears by this. Pat them dry well with kitchen towel and arrange the meaty bits and boney bits separately.
Start cooking the onions in the medium sized pot (this will be the one that ends up being a pasta sauce) with some olive oil until golden. Remove from heat.
Heat quite a large amount of olive oil in the frypan, and cook the garlic until it's just softened, then remove the garlic using a slotted spoon. Put about 1/4 into the onion pot, and 3/4 into the larger casserole/sauce pot. This is to flavour the oil you are about the brown the rabbit in, however the taste of burnt garlic is horrible and bitter, so you don't want that!
Brown the meaty bits of the rabbit first, on a high flame, sprinkling liberally with sea-salt. Salt is the main seasoning of this dish and it's really important. Seriously salt away :) Do this in batches of 4 or 5 bits so it fries up nice and brown and doesn't start stewing just at this point. As soon as the piece is browned chuck it in the larger pot with just the garlic, and keep on frying the bits of rabbit until they are all done. Once you get to the more boney bits, throw them browned into the onion pot :) Don't forget to sprinkle liberally with sea-salt whilst frying - both sides! :)
As a special "i'm the rabbit chef" thing, i normally fry up the rabbit livers and have them for lunch. just nick a few of the garlic pieces, and eat with a chunk of crusty Maltese hobza (mmm sourdough is teh best!)
To the large pot add 2-3 bayleaves, add about a bottle and a half of red wine, maybe an additional sprinkle of salt and cover, leaving on a medium flame until the wine starts bubbling, then turn right down.
To the small pot add a couple of bayleaves, half a bottle of wine, the rabbit seasoning and the kunserva, stirring till pretty much combined. Make sure the heat is turned right down and cover the pot.
Every 15-20 minutes, just check on the pots, changing the position of the rabbit to ensure that all of them get some "completely covered in wine" time, and also some "partially covered in wine" time. It has to be on the lowest heat possible, so move them to the smallest burners if it's bubbling a bit rather than just a low simmer.
After about an hour, I tend to find that the wine/garlic one is a little liquidy, and the other is dry, so i just spoon a couple of ladles worth of wine sauce stuff into the other. It worked out really well when i did this! If you need to add any extra liquid to either of these, either use the wine from the garlic/wine pot, or simply add water. Do not add ANY wine unless you plan to cook the sauce further for at least another 30 minutes.
The wine and garlic rabbit will be ready after about 1.5-2 hours of cooking, when it's falling off the bone. You could technically serve it right there and then, however it is actually nicer if you leave it to cool, then reheat it that evening, or even the next day!
The "pasta" sauce will need some further preparation. Ok so: once the meat on the boney bits is completely cooked, and falling off the bone, lift all the meaty bits out onto a plate with a slotted spoon. Cool these bits down enough to be able to handle them with bare hands. Wash your hands well, and with your fingers, separate the bones and meat. Once you have done this, add all the meat back into the sauce, and throw away the bones (or leave them for Dad who likes to "mexmex" aka eating the last scraps of meat off the bones).
Boil the potatoes in plenty of salted boiling water until just tender. Quarter (and peel if you like) and toss them with some olive oil, rosemary, heaps of salt and pepper. chuck in a roasting dish and leave until the guests arrive.
WHEN GUESTS ARRIVE:
Prepare a large pot of well salted water for pasta.
Put Garlic/wine rabbit on a low heat to reheat well.
Toss potatoes, ensuring they are covered in oil, turn on oven on a high heat to make teh golden :D
Switch on pasta sauce, and allow to simmer for 5 minutes, and add 2 tins of well drained and rinsed marrowfat peas. No, fresh peas will not suffice. No, frozen peas will not suffice. It will only need to heat up well, warm the peas, then be switched off.
Cook spaghetti according to instructions.
Remember that the pasta is only a starter, so give smaller portions out. I know some people who would be happy with just the pasta sauce, if you have any of these you will have plenty of sauce to go around :D Serve with the grated cheese.
Once everyone's finished with the pasta, the next course should be ready. If the potatoes are still not quite there, just turn on the grill and mix them around a little.
I completely forgot to take a photo of the pasta!! oops!
With 2 rabbits, there should be at least one really nice meaty bit for 10 people with a couple of bits spare (for the boys usually).
Serve with heaps of potatoes and Maltese bread cut into chunks not slices :D
Make sure there is plenty of red wine and water flowing throughout the meal :)
Of course, the low carb tag on this refers to the rabbit, not the potatoes!!!