October 14, 2017 9:05 am
If you find yourself in Malta on a Sunday afternoon, right on time for Sunday lunch and request a typical dish, you are in with the chance to be served a piping hot plate of rabbit stew or as it’s more commonly known in Maltese, stuffat tal-fenek.
Although there are several ways to cook and serve the rabbit, the traditional Maltese way is to cook it in tomato sauce with vegetables such as onions, potatoes and peas, after the rabbit chunks have been marinating in wine, oil and herbs particularly bay leaves. After a couple of hours cooking, the meat would be so tender that it would fall of the bone.
To elevate the meat dish from a simple meal into a rabbit feast, Maltese families tend to serve the dish in two or sometimes even three different courses, where the rabbit pieces are reserved with potatoes and other vegetables for the main course, while the rich tomato sauce with peas and onions is used to top a plate of spaghetti. As for starters, some internal organs of the rabbit such as liver and kidneys are separately cooked and served before the pasta.
Recipes such as stuffat tal-fenek have been passed down through generations in Malta and although they might have been slightly adapted through the years, the traditional dish still finds its way on the dinner table regularly. There are also some variations of the rabbit dish in Malta, where it is cooked with loads of garlic and parsley and cooked in oil and wine, and served with fries and gravy.
Although the stuffat tal-fenek is quite unique in the way it is cooked and served in Malta, several other countries across Europe have a variation of the rabbit stew where it is also cooked with vegetables and some kind of wine, in most cases.
The Portuguese have their own version of the rabbit stew called Coelho à caçadora which originates in Estremadura. Similar to the Maltese version, it is cooked for hours, with wine and different vegetables.
Same thing happens in France with the Lapin à la cocotte where the rabbit is cooked in a casserole with wine and vegetables.
In Greece, the dish is similar to the Maltese version even in the name: Kouneli stifado where it is cooked for hours with onions, wine and other vegetables together with an array of different herbs and spices such as the bay leaf which can also be found in the Maltese version.
Hasenpfeffer is the German alternative for this typical Maltese dish with similar components, particularly the herbs and spices like the bay leaf, and wine.
Here is a video showing the method of this traditional dish. It is being prepared by an Australian man with Maltese descent, proving that this dish really goes beyond the Maltese islands. Generally it is not baked but cooked for hours until tender on the stove.
- SBS Television. (2017). Rabbit stew (stuffat tal-fenek). [online] Available at: http://bit.ly/2xB3xcM [Accessed 9 Oct. 2017].
- Ilovefood.com.mt. (2017). Rabbit Stew – Stuffat Tal-Fenek. [online] Available at: http://bit.ly/2g5oR3L [Accessed 9 Oct. 2017
Written by Veronica Lynn Mizzi – Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg). Graduate in the Maltese Language and Communication, and Master’s graduate in Translation and Terminology Studies from the University of Malta
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