Baby Spring Rabbit Ravioli with In-Season Avocado

Our dear friend Rohan Anderson of Whole Larder Love made this delicious rabbit ravioli recipe using some of our avos and we decided it was too delicious not to share!

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If you have a keen eye, you’ll see the rabbits getting all frisky at the end of winter. They bounce around one another in a flirtatious frenzied ritual. They spring and fly into the air with acrobatic fervour. Sometimes they chase one another from one side of their patch to the other. I could sit and watch them for ages, but more often than not I have something more pressing to do with my time. The result of this annual mating display is obvious; many baby rabbits.

Unending baby rabbits in fact. The cycle is as predictable as the mad north winds of spring. Without fail, the new generation rabbits rise out of their labyrinth of warrens into the world of grassy fields. This generation is weird, they communicate mostly by social media and prefer text to conversation, and seem to take way more selfies than the previous generation.

I cannot deny that there is some element of cuteness to this new batch of rabbits, but the underlying fact is that the species is introduced to Australia, it’s a feral pest species. They cause a lot of damage to crops and the warrens wreak havoc with the erodible Australian soils. When I decided to stop buying supermarket chicken because I’d discovered how said birds where raised, I turned to hunting rabbits as an alternative white meat, and I’ve been hunting them ever since. You’d think I’d have tired of them by now, but it’s the opposite. They’re still very much a joy to hunt, a joy to cook, and a pleasure to eat.

When I was a full blooded bogan I used to visit a Italian style pasta chain restaurant that’s relatively famous in Australia. I often ordered a pasta that had chicken and avocado creamy sauce. It was delicious, but I’m pretty sure the ingredients wouldn’t fit my current view of the world. I’m not sure anything is organic, local or ethically raised. I haven’t eaten there for well over a decade.

With the old favourite meal in mind I came up with the idea for this dinner. What better than combining in season avocados from the guys up at Barham and the tender meat of young new season rabbits. Seems like an interesting twist on the old meal I once ordered with my blind robotic eyes, with a new approach influenced by the new version of Rohan.

I use baby rabbits because the meat is the best quailty, it’s tender and delicious. And before you get on your high horse about me eating baby rabbits, please remember these guys grow up to be adult rabbits. And just like humans, the adults are the ones that do all the environmental damage.

Now I know we have serious issues in the world. Issues that have split the community in two. This dish represents one of those major issues. Apparently it’s very wrong (culinary speaking) for me to have avocados in a hot dish. Seems ok to me, but apparently it’s a big no no. The kids and I didn’t seem to be that concerned as we devoured the meal for dinner. If my kids eat it, I’m happy. If it’s works for you in life, just do it. No one is your boss but yourself. Well that’s how I live anyway.

With everything I cook I make an effort to source good local stuff. If I can’t make it myself, I look for the local option. To be honest, it doesn’t take much effort. Well I don’t think it does. It’s easy to say I’m too time poor. I believe that’s a state of mind. You’re only as busy as you allow yourself to be.

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What I used:

  • 2 x wild baby spring rabbits
  • 2 x Barham Avocados avos
  • Full milk cream (I use inglenook dairy)
  • Pecorino (Australian made is really good)
  • 300gm fresh ricotta
  • Handful of soft spring thyme from the garden
  • 300gm plain organic flour
  • 4 large eggs from the backyard chooks
  • chilli powder (I blitz my dried backyard chills to make the powder)
  • 2 x lemons from mums lemon tree
  • Murray River Salt
  • Foraged Mountain Pepper Berry

What I do:

First step is to shoot the bunnies. They are a bit smaller in size, so you have to have your .22 accurately sighted in, and take your time with the shoot. A head shot is what you want.

After they’re skinned and gutted, I wash them, then poach them very gently for about two hours until the meat starts to fall off the frame.

Process the meat from the bones, allow to cool then pop into a tub and straight to the fridge. I did the poaching and processing the day before, I did have intentions of cooking this meal the day prior but got distracted with a broken chainsaw.

Blitz the cooked rabbit meat in the food processor, then pop it in a large mixing bowl, then add the ricotta, about half a cup of grated pecorrino and the leaves from the very soft fresh thyme. Mix well. This is the stuffing for the ravioli, so don’t eat too much of it when you mix it.

To make the pasta I mix 3 large eggs (leave one egg aside) with 300gm plain flour in a large mixing bowl. I know I probably should be using ’00’ Farina flour but the organic plain flour from the grocery store is fine enough to make pasta with, and it’s Australian made.

Using an expensive kitchen mixing device (my hands) I mix and twirl the egg around in the flour with clean fingers, mixing and mulching until a dough has formed. I treat the dough like a stress ball, squishing it and further mixing the two ingredients until it’s silky smooth. The trick I use when making pasta is to rip the dough in half and stick it back together, if it holds together it’s done. I then wrap it in cling film and rest it for an hour.

I use a hand crank pasta maker. Read the instructions of your pasta maker to make massive strips of flat pasta.

Beat the remaining egg in a bowl and grab a small pastry brush.

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Then start filling the pasta with the stuffing. Form a little amount of the filling onto one side of the pasta that sits flat on the table. You just make this stuff up, there are no rules here. The general idea is that you pop the filling on the pasta, use the brush with the egg wash on the pasta which will help seal the pasta as you fold it over the filling. Push out any air captured in the pocket of filling, then use a pasta cutter to cut out the pretty little gems.

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Pop a saucepan of salted water on the stove. While that’s heating up, cut out 1.5 of the avocados, and mash with a spoon in a large mixing bowl. Squeeze in the juice of a lemon, add a teaspoon of chilli powder, and a generous dollop of cream. For extra love grate in half a cup of the pecorino.

Cook the ravioli until al dente, remove from the hot water with a hand strainer and pop straight in to the mixing bowl with the mashed avocado. Toss and flip the ravioli and cover it with the creamy mashed avocado sauce.

Slide the ravioli onto a pretty plate. Drizzle over the best olive oil you have in the house. Squeeze over some lemon juice, crack some salt and wild pepper berry. Add a sprinkle of that beautiful red chilli powder a sprig of fresh thyme. And finally, to remind you that it’s ok to have avocado in pasta, slice out the last of the remaining avocado to sit proudly on top.

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Why ‘Community’ Matters

Recently I’ve been having a lot to do with our local government and a few weeks back I had to deliver a presentation.  I’ve done a lot of public speaking in my life and I don’t usually get nervous, but on this occasion I was wound up like your grandmother’s clock.

The presentation was about a project that we are working on and how we might work with the Council to achieve some of the dreams of the Red Gum Food Group. For three years the group has been working on developing a sustainable economy around food. Recently the Council have seen an opportunity in the same area. They started looking at applying for funding to get a restaurant and food hub off the ground. I’ve spent countless hours over the past two months working on this project and trying to form a relationship with the Council to work out how we can develop this project together.

I asked myself why do I care so much about this project? About this presentation? Why am I so deeply involved? Why do I care so much about this town and it’s future? Why do I try to get ALL my friends to move here?

George (my Uncle and mentor, really) sent me this article in The Age written by Tony Wright about the “Life judged by the kindness of strangers”.

When I read this it all clicked. He talks about “well-being” and how this is measured by the OECD by eight categories: health, safety, access to services, education, jobs, environment, income, safety, and civic engagement (defined as trust in government and participation in voting) – to calculate the regions offering the best circumstances in which a citizen might attain well-being. He goes on to say “But I have lived in plenty of other places, too, some of them not quite so salubrious or wealthy. And there was good reason to find, in every one of them, reasons to believe one was living in one of the best places anywhere.

He suggests that “a more reliable guide is something simpler: the people who surround us, and how their presence enriches us. It’s given the catch-all term “community”, “

And there you have it. I care about this town, this project and working with the Council to achieve great outcomes because I love my life and feel privileged to live in this community which I love and I appreciate so much. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived and travelled all over the world and experienced other places so I can fully appreciate what we have here. But mostly I think it’s about the day-to-day experiences and the people here that make this place so special and make it such a wonderful community.

It’s the fact that the kids can ride their bikes around the block and I know they are safe or that someone will watch out for them. It’s the people who put on Facebook that Moet (our black lab) is at the bottle shop (again) and can someone come and get her. It’s the guys at the supermarket looking after your newborn baby for you while you do your shopping and then carry your bags home for you. It’s the dear, dear friends who drop round casseroles when you have your third baby and then offer to take the big kids for a play. It’s the footy team that is the backbone of the community that gathers on a Saturday rain hail or shine.

It’s community members working together to raise money to build a boardwalk and then the Lion Club’s getting cranky because it’s too high, because they love their town and their river and their park and they want to make sure it’s preserved. It’s the blokes who erect massive signs on the bridge because their up in arms about the Murray Darling Basin Plan. It’s the awesome little community run pre-school and the ladies who run the op-shop.

It’s the loyalty people have to our avos that sees sales jump from four trays a week when ours are out of season to twenty when ours are in! It’s the swapping avos for pork or lamb or honey, or accounting advice. It’s organising the a massive outdoor event in a paddock and then when you get flooded out the whole town comes out of the woodwork to help you relocate. It’s the tennis club coming out to help pick the pumpkin crop that remains after your dad’s gone and your Mum can’t face it alone.

It’s all these things that make this community amazing. It’s this community that is worth preserving. It’s this community that makes me happy to spend countless hours ensuring that Council stays true to what we value and believe in here. It’s this community that makes my life fulfilled.

And all of that is why I’ve never been more nervous about a presentation in my life.

Unfortunately, things haven’t gone all that well with building our relationship with the local Council to date, but we won’t give up. We still have a vision of developing our town as a food destination and I really want to see our community build resilience to achieve great things and that means we have to keep trying to work together.

This stuff matters. Communities matter. I think in many places the sense of community is being lost. Tim and I are really passionate about being part of our community as a family and with our business. As Australia becomes more and more urbanised it’s the country communities that need to be cherished. I want to make sure that this community is here for my kids so that if they choose to live here they can have the same amazing quality of life that I have.

Look around you, think about the people you have in your life and think about what you can do to enrich their lives and make them feel part of your community.

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