Words: Raynor Peirce
Photographs: Cory White
From the sanctuary of an inner city café the weather outside looks biblical. Gale force wind and torrential rain batters the window, warping the view of the streetscape outside into a piece of impressionist artwork. “What are you guys doing this weekend” the waitress asks as she serves us up two piping hot bowls of beef and barley soup. “Hunting” we reply. She laughs. Not a funny ha ha kind of laugh, more the kind reserved for when you see another human doing something utterly ridiculous. My phone rings. “What are you doing this weekend” a friend from work enquires. “Hunting” I promptly respond. Again I hear the same laugh only this time it’s coming from a man who grew up diving for crayfish in the middle of winter off the southern most point of Australia. I start to shiver.
When we arrive at Rohan Anderson’s country abode later that day the weather finally clears. It’s still bitterly cold but at least it’s dry. His home, an old converted school house, immediately exudes warmth. With golden hued timber flooring and sensibly displayed well-worn books and utensils, the comfortable atmosphere is intoxicating.
While we await the onset of twilight preparations are made for the hunt. Rohan produces his weapon of choice. A .22 magnum rifle with telescopic lens and a high powered LED torch attachment. Like all good tools there is a certain beauty in the melding of timber and steel, exemplifying nature’s offerings and humankind’s capacity to wield them. Yet the weapons undercurrent of malice and its potential for destructiveness can not be denied, perhaps again mirroring humanity but this time in its inclination for harm.
Rohan informs us that tonight the object of our hostile intentions is the rabbit. In Australia the rabbit is one of the most destructive invasive animal species, having had devastating effects on native wildlife and vegetation since its introduction. With focus clearly on its status as a pest animal it is often overlooked as a viable food resource. In fact, the rabbit represents one of the healthiest, leanest and most sustainable ways to eat red meat.
As we set off on our hunting expedition Rohan is wearing a flannelette shirt and a duck down vest, in my opinion, slightly underdressed considering the frigid temperatures outside. When I point this out to him he responds with “I want to feel the cold in my bones, I want to feel alive. I should be cold and wet like every other animal out here looking for its food tonight”. There is no machismo in the comment, it’s more an indication of his mind set. He thinks of himself as an equal participant within the environment, not one who’s there to dominate it.
Trudging through knee high grass in a neighbours paddock we discuss the intricacies of gun ownership. Rohan explains everything from the process and complications of licensing to the key safety aspects that should be considered while shooting with others. His knowledge is comprehensive and it’s immediately obvious that he has a deep respect for his firearm. It’s a far cry from the stereotypical portrait of the gun totting redneck that is so often associated with hunting.
It has become ominously dark and as we stumble along behind Rohan , he calmly stops, props and CRACK!………. The shot echo’s across the field and in one fluid motion he has raised his gun, tracked his prey and pulled the trigger. It’s an impressive sight but what’s more impressive is his accuracy. The rabbit has been killed instantly, shot cleanly through the head.
Death. Within a culture that naturally breeds a certain level of egocentrism, death as a concept is often treated inelegantly. As a topic it is seldom discussed. But when it comes to the common consumption of meat the simple fact is that a living organism has been slain to provide sustenance. To ignore this fact or try to distance oneself from it is to disregard the beast’s final sacrifice. As civilisation continues to be drawn to the bright lights of the city, and we become increasingly disconnected from our food source, how long until we lose this association of life through death?
Later, back in the warmth of the kitchen, I am appointed apprentice butcher under Rohan’s expert tutorage. As he zestfully talks me through each dissection I can see his passion for knowledge is not restricted to self acquisition. Rohan explains each cut of meat and which cooking method it is best suited to; the hind legs a casserole, the saddle a roast, the bones a stock. Each piece of the rabbit will form a meal for Rohan and his family. It is part of his overall philosophy that nothing will go to waste out of respect for the animal.
Some readers will not agree with Rohan’s methods, hunting inherently divides opinions. However it’s hard to argue against the source of his actions. He has made a conscious choice to eat meat and has embraced the full consequences of this decision. In doing so he has selected an abundant & sustainable protein with none of the negative food miles associated with most bovine options. Unfortunately the general public puts far less effort into their decision process, let alone their food acquisition, and Rohan’s “peasant style” approach appears a niche art form. Perhaps the simplicity of peasant life should become a more admirable existence in contrast to society’s current conventional aspiration of gluttonous consumption.
If you are interested in trying Rohan’s ” Spanish rabbit casserole with cous cous ” recipe, see below or see him prepare it in motion here.
6 rabbit hind legs
750ml tomato passata
Handful fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 sprig of rosemary
1 large saffron milk cap mushroom (or 1 large Portobello)
4 garlic cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1tbs spoon paprika
1 cup of dry white wine or sherry
Plain flour (for dusting)
1 cup cous cous
2 cups boiling water
1 knob of butter
1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius
2. Slice the mushroom and chorizo as thickly as desired. Thinly slice the garlic and finely chop the fresh rosemary.
3. Flour the rabbit legs, ensuring that there is an even coating on both sides. Heat 3 tbs of olive oil in casserole pot over a medium-high heat and braise the rabbit legs on both sides until they are a light golden brown, taking care not to cook them all the way through. Set aside on a plate.
4. Fry the chorizo with the remaining olive oil in the pot for a couple of minutes before adding the mushrooms, stirring continuously to prevent burning. When mushrooms soften, add the wine and return the rabbit legs to the pot.
5. Add all the remaining ingredients to the pot: the garlic, thyme, passata, bay leaves, cinnamon, paprika, and the rosemary. Stir all the ingredients in the pot. Put lid on pot and place in oven for two hours.
6. After the first hour, checking the water if levels. If the sauce has reduced too much, add some boiling water to the pot, stir though and return to the oven.
7. After two hours, check that the rabbit is cooked by using a fork to tug at the flesh and see that it falls easily away from the bone.
8. Prepare couscous by adding 2 cups of boiling water and the butter to couscous in a saucepan. Replace lid and leave to stand for 5 minutes.
9. Remove lid and stir butter through couscous with a fork so that it becomes fluffy.
10. Place the rabbit casserole on a bed of couscous and garnish liberally with freshly chopped parsley.