I was hoping to find something quick to cook in the village shop, but instead was tempted by rabbit legs. My first thought was lapin à la sauce moutarde, rabbit with mustard sauce, one of the most common rabbit dishes in French restaurants. But a quick search in Jeanne Strang’s wonderful book about the cuisine of south-western France, Goose Fat and Garlic, led me to try something new. I based my recipe on hers, adding some juniper berries to the marinade and using shallots (large French echalottes) rather than onions. I marinaded the rabbit legs in red wine, sliced shallots and carrots, pepper, bay leaves chopped garlic and juniper berries for about 5 hours, although Jeanne Strang suggests overnight. At the same time I soaked the pruneaux (dried prunes that are a speciality of the area around Agen in the Lot, south-west France) in some more red wine.
The marinade smelt deliciously winey and oniony after a few hours when I drained the rabbit pieces and browned them and some more shallots in duck fat in a cast-iron casserole and stirred in a tablespoonful of flour. I added the marinade, brought it all to the boil and simmered for an hour. Then I added the pruneaux with their wine and simmered for a further 20 minutes.
I served the rabbit with millas, a southern French version of polenta, the recipe for which is also given in Jeanne Strang’s book. I used some quick-cook polenta grains I had in the cupboard, with three times their volume of water, some more duck fat and chopped garlic. When it was cooked (only 7 minutes with these grains although the more traditional method takes 20 minutes of continuous stirring), I spread it out on a baking tray in a layer about 1 centimetre thick and put it under the grill to crisp a bit, then cut pieces of it to accompany the rabbit and sauce.