Now this is truly one of the major reasons I’ve been looking extremely forward to our stay in Malta. Besides fish and seafood another creature is a very popular source of protein here: fenek, or rabbit in Maltese!
But they are so cute… I bet half of you guys are thinking right now. Yep, very cute but what’s even more important to me: rabbit is also delicious!
Fenek (all about the Maltese rabbit)
Here’s why I’m so excited about cooking rabbit. I gave up buying rabbit in my local supermarket at home. Last time I cooked it, the poor thing was utterly tasteless and a total disappointment.A couple of weeks ago however we spent some days in Nice (France) where we also rented an apartment. The farmers market nearby was packed with the most wonderful looking fresh produce as usual. And a fair amount evidently ended up on our stove.
I had my eye on a butcher stall because it had lovely rabbits for sale. But believe it or not, our stay in Nice was over in a blink of an eye and the rabbit didn’t make it on our menu…
Fenek at Michael’s Butcher (Marsaskala)
And here we are in Malta! The morning of our second day we took up the plan to look for a good butcher shop and finally bring bunny home. The closest we could find in Marsaskala is Michael’s Butcher (48, Triq Sant’Anna), a tiny shop with a limited choice of fresh meats. Ingredients such as Maltese sausages, pork chops, chicken fillets and of course beautiful rabbit loins and legs.Besides a couple of local sausages we bought a rabbit loin. The butcher offered to chop it in half which proved to be a good idea later on because it was much easier to cook. We paid €3 for the loin, a bargain.
Next question: what marinade should we soak the rabbit in? Olive oil, vinegar, pepper, salt, fennel seeds… The usual stuff!
I picked a bunch of wild fennel while picking snails along the coastline later that day so I chopped it up and added it to the lot as well. Left bunny swimming in all those goodies for 36 hours, turned both pieces regularly.
In the evening my hubby lit the bbq on and there the rabbit ended up for half an hour, sizzling and roasting away. How did it taste like then? The rabbit was flavorful, juicy, perfectly cooked, slightly smokey taste and my gosh, that aniseed touch from the wild fennel added the necessary freshness to it…So that was our first serious go at cooking rabbit which turned out extremely well but how do the Maltese cook theirs?
Maltese rabbit dishes
Some of the most popular rabbit specialties here are rabbit stew with tomatoes and/or red wine (stuffat tal-fenek) which is also served as a sauce for spaghetti, roasted rabbit (fenek moqli), rabbit braised in garlic and white wine (fenek bit-tewm u bl-inbid) and local ravioli with a rabbit stuffing.
A couple of days ago I read ‘Fenkata next Sunday: order in advance’ on a suggestion board in front of a restaurant. I had absolutely no clue what that meant (and the place was closed so I couldn’t ask inside) so I googled it and found out that only loads of rabbit stew are served that day, mostly accompanied by roast potatoes or spaghetti.
This is a very popular event for families (also at home) and locals. Next time I see a fenkata announcement, something tells me I definitely shouldn’t miss it…
Just in case you want to build a fenkata party at home, here’s what goes into it: rabbit, garlic, onion, bay leaves, red wine, vinegar, olive oil and tomato paste. Simmer the stew for a couple of hours. Dang, it’s making me hungry even more…
48 Triq Sant’Anna