or “How the Flopsy Bunnies tricked Mr. McGregor.”
I think the name initially devised was even more convoluted, but Leo and Balthasar helped me distill it down to this. This is what happens when Thomas isn’t around.
It’s really meatloaf with spinach mashed potatoes, so let me explain.
Fake rabbit (falscher Hase) is what the Germans call meatloaf, which, as flawed as it may be, is better than “meatloaf” — I imagine pretty much anything is better than “meatloaf.” So as I was looking for a name for this dinner – which isn’t exactly a speedy 20-minute meal, but much easier than it seems and always a great success — I erred into a world of bunnies, vegetable patches, and Beatrix Potter.
For anyone who didn’t grow up with stories of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny, Thomasina Tittlemouse and Jemima Puddle-Duck, the tale of the Flopsy Bunnies goes something like this: seven hungry bunnies venture onto Mr. McGregor’s rubbish (it’s an English story) heap, where they find a quantity of discarded overgrown lettuces. Victims to the soporific effect of lettuce, the bunnies all fall into a deep sleep, from which they are plucked by Mr. McGregor, and dumped into a sac for his dinner. Luckily the parents come by, find the sac, and, with the help of a friendly field mouse, free the bunnies from the sac then replace them with rotten vegetables. Unaware of the swap, Mr. McGregor proudly presents the sac to his wife, who doesn’t find the joke very funny.
Somehow, thinking of fake rabbits and children’s dinners reminded me of this story. And you know what? The name has caught on (not that the meal really needed selling, but still).
The fake rabbit
This fake rabbit is very moist, flavorful, and incidentally, bread-free. It takes a while to cook, but just a few minutes to prepare. The meat can be seasoned and prepared in advance and kept in the refrigerator for a few hours.
2 lbs ground lamb or beef
1 small onion
1 garlic clove
Small bunch parsley
Zest from 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsps good olive oil
1/2 Tbsp coarse grey sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C).
Place the meat in a large bowl.
Peel and finely chop the onion. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Wash, remove the stems, and finely chop the parsley.
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs briefly with a fork.
Add all the ingredients to the meat and mix thoroughly.
Pat the meat into an oblong shape and transfer to an ovenproof dish. Drizzle a little olive oil and rub over the meat.
Slide the meat into the oven and bake at 425°F for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375°F and bake for another 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes before cutting into 1 inch slices to serve.
The vegetable garden
Or quick mashed potatoes with spinach
5 or 6 medium potatoes
1 bunch spinach
3 Tbsps butter
Good olive oil
Freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
Fill a pot with water, salt generously, cover, place over high heat, and bring to a boil.
Peel and cut the potatoes into halves (or quarters if the potatoes are very big). Carefully drop the potatoes into the boiling water, leaving the lid ajar so the water doesn’t overflow, and cook. (They will cook for about 20 minutes.)
Meanwhile prepare the spinach. Remove the damaged leaves, cut off the stems, wash the spinach leaves in cold water, and set aside.
Start checking the potatoes after about 15 minutes; As soon as a sharp knife slides easily into the flesh, the potatoes are done. Immediately add the spinach, blanch for 1 minute, and quickly drain the potatoes and spinach into a colander.
Place the potatoes into a large shallow bowl and the spinach on a cutting board. With a masher or fork, mash the potatoes with the butter, and good glug of olive oil. Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
Now the spinach should be cool enough to handle. Chop it finely, add to the potatoes, and mix well.