Saying “Pinch punch” and spitefully poking somebody or just saying “White rabbits!” before midday on every 1st of the month is a popular folk tradition whose origins have become hazy with the passing of time.
Almost nobody remembers now that the “pinch punch” was a symbolic blow to cast out evil spirits from people around you, and that “White rabbits” is a call to good spirits for protection. I suppose it’s one of the things you don’t consider until you start having spirit issues.
As the 1st of August is the festival of Lammas, I have created a menu for a Lammas meal which combines all the elements you need for an evil-free and good-omened August.
Pinch Punch – an inexpensive sangria punch with wine & fruit
Double Bunny Chow – rabbit shaped Lammas Loaves stuffed with curried rabbit
Chocolate Bunny Cake – yes, it’s a bunny themed meal, what of it?
And remember to say “White rabbits” but don’t try to poke me or I’ll poke you right back, “no returns” or not.
The key to this punch is that you make it with the cheapest possible available ingredients, hence the Pinch element, as to “live frugally”. If you can get the kind of wine which comes in a box or a plastic bottle, that would be ideal. Use fruit which is in season and widely available, and pick it yourself if you can, as Lammas is the first harvest festival of the year.
The traditional method is to combine chopped fruit with the wine and allow it to infuse, but this makes it difficult to drink quickly, and makes a lot of mess, so I prefer to juice the fruits in advance.
I am making a form of sangria blanca, after a good experience with chopped peaches in white wine with sugar on a recent trip to Italy. A box of wine from the supermarket provides a good base for blackberry juice. We went to Epping Forest on Sunday and picked a gigantic carrier bag full of berries, so we are eating them with everything. They are recommended for Lammas as it is the “feast of first fruits”.
Fill a jug with 2 pints of chilled wine, pour in 1 to 2 cups of juice depending on the fruit. Blackberries don’t make much juice, so half a cup will do. If you were using peaches or apples, use more. Taste and add sugar until it tastes good to you while retaining some tart edge, add more ice, and serve garnished with berries or slices of fruit.
Clink glasses and toast to “White rabbits!”
Double Bunny Chow
Traditionally, bunny chow is a South African dish of a bread roll filled with curry, wrapped in old newspapers and eaten with the hands. This version uses decorative Lammas Loaves in place of the simple roll, and if you can find it, rabbit is the perfect choice for the curry.
Filling an effigy of the symbolic rabbit with actual rabbit meat rather in the fashion of an edible reliquary makes for a powerful charm to draw the favour of both good spirits and leveret or rabbit spirits.
Bunny Lammas Loaves
You can find my Lammas bread recipe here. Make bunnies with good fat bodies for the loaves. Usually these breads are not recommended for food because of their dense, tough texture, but they work here because they can absorb juices without getting soggy.
Lucky Rabbit Curry
1 raw rabbit
1 medium onion
4 cloves of garlic
Small jar of curry paste
Ask the butcher for a rabbit, and steel yourself for an appallingly gruesome experience. When you place the poor creature on the kitchen cutting board, immediately remove the head and any entrails remaining to it. Put them aside for the time being where you don’t have to look at them, and cut the rabbit into joints.
Cook them in just enough water to cover them until the meat is falling off the bones- add a little sherry to the water if you have it. Remove the bones and simmer them with the head and lights for stock.
Try not to look into the stock pot as it bubbles, or you might see terrible things. But we should all only eat things we are prepared to come eye to eye with.
Chop the onion and garlic into a frying pan, and sizzle in oil. Add the meat and curry paste then add just enough stock to keep the mixture from drying and sticking to the bottom of the pan – keep adding stock as you need it until the ingredients have combined – this should be around 10 minutes.
Split the loaves, hollow out the soft interior and fill them with curry- I served them with black lentil dhal, but you can make your own choice of side dish.
After the stock was made, we placed the rabbit skull in the garden as an offering to the leveret spirits.
Happy Rabbit Cake
This is easy to make if you have the right kind of cake mould, and extremely difficult if you haven’t. I advise you to find a good mould- you can use them for Easter Bunny cakes in the future, and while I got mine on sale at TK Maxx homewares section, they are available from Amazon online.
I used a basic sponge cake recipe, which worked very well apart from that his insides were liquid when he came out of the mould, and he left his ears behind when he came out as they were too dry.
Really, you should use the recipe for a very rich, heavy cake which comes on the side of the box, but I just didn’t feel up to it. Instead we fixed him by microwaving him for 4 minutes so that his liquid cake interior cooked perfectly, then we created a kind of prosthetic ear from marzipan.
This was indistinguishable from his sponge head and body after we coated him with melted chocolate and sprinkled him with crystallized violets.
Full of Pinch Punch and three (3!) kinds of rabbit, you will have the luckiest August on record.
“When I was a very little boy I was advised to always murmur ‘White rabbits’ on the first of every month if I wanted to be lucky. From sheer force of unreasoning habit I do it still—when I think of it. I know it to be preposterously ludicrous, but that does not deter me.” – Sir Herbert Russell, 1925
“Even Mr. Roosevelt, the President of the United States, has confessed to a friend that he says ‘Rabbits’ on the first of every month—and, what is more, he would not think of omitting the utterance on any account.” – Newspaper article, 1935
Ever since I was 4 years old, I have said ‘White Rabbits’ at the very moment of waking on every single first day of every single month that has passed.” – Author & journalist Simon Winchester, 2006