Run Rabbit, Run!
We might be nearing the end of British Game Week, but this is not to say that it is by any mean the end of British game.
In a previous post I highlighted the recent increase in popularity of British game as a healthy alternative to chicken, beef or lamb. The campaign ‘Game-to-Eat’ is dedicated to promoting the beauty of British game meat, a driving force in the Countryside Alliance’s bid to supporting our amazing game dealers, butchers and small business dedicated to our rural lands. Find more information here; http://www.gametoeat.co.uk
So in the spirit of this campaign, and hot on the heals of the rabbit season, I have developed a warming and comforting rabbit pie packed full of winter flavour.
With its sweet yet subtle gamey flavours, rabbit is a brilliant meat to introduce new eaters to the world of game. Extremely lean and as versatile as chicken, rabbit is a fantastic flavour carrier working well with cream, tomato or even spice based sauces.
Whether the meat is used for pies, curries or terrines and pates, rabbit is best eaten through its 6 month season; July through to December. Due to its low fat content, rabbit can be prone to drying out so be sure to use cooking techniques that get the best out of your bunny!
Bare in mind young rabbit is much tender and therefore can handle hot, stovetop cooking. Whereas older rabbit requires a little more time and attention in the form of slow cooking casseroles and stews. Having said this, braising rabbit is always my go to cooking method.
Slow cooking in stock with vegetables for added flavour avoids any threat of dry and rubbery meat. Not only does slow and gently cooking result in meat that falls of the bone, but it means you get the most meat from your joint. This also allows you to cook your meat before hand and simply stir through a sauce at your convenience.
So take a look at my latest recipe and get familiar with cooking game. It really is a fantastic British institution that we should look to continually support. Especially in the coming festive months, game makes for a great alternative to our conventional meat.
- 2 tsp dried rosemary
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp mild curry powder
- salt and pepper
- 1 whole rabbit
- Rapeseed oil
- 2 carrots
- 2 stalks celery
- 1 white onion
- 300ml dry cider
- 1 – 1 1/2 pint chicken stock
- 200g streaky bacon
- 6 little onions (about 100g)
- 2 tsp wholegrain mustard
- 100g button mushrooms
- 150g walnuts
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 100g blue cheese (I used Dorset Blue Vinny)
- 1 tbsp butter
- Packet of filo pastry
- Pre-heat the oven to 150°c/gas mark 2. In a pestle and mortar, grind the rosemary, thyme, curry powder, salt and pepper. Rub the herbs into the rabbit, inside and out. Heat a splash on rapeseed oil in a large casserole pot before browning the rabbit on all sides – once the meat is sealed, set aside on a plate.
- Very roughly chop the carrots, celery and onion and add to the casserole dish. Allow to slightly brown before adding 250ml of the cider and deglaze the casserole pot. Cook for a few minutes, using a spoon to remove the flavour cooked to the bottom of the pan, then remove from the heat.
- Return the rabbit and all its juices to the casserole pot and top with the stock – ensure the liquid covers the majority of the rabbit (depending on the size of your pot, this will be about 1 – 1 1/2 pints of stock). Cover the pot with a lid and place in the pre-heated oven – cook for 3hrs, or until the meat starts to fall from the bone. Remove from the oven and set aside until the meat is cool enough to handle.
- Carefully remove the rabbit from the cooking liquor before pulling all the meat from the bone – a decent sized young rabbit with give you about 300 – 400g meat (at this stage the meat and cooking liquor can be refrigerated until ready to use). Strain a pint of the cooking liquor into a jug ready for making the sauce and discard of the vegetables and rabbit bones.
- In a large pan, heat a splash of rapeseed oil on a high heat and cut the bacon into lardons. Fry the bacon pieces until crispy before adding the peeled and halved onions – cook until golden and crispy. Add the mustard and stir through. Use the remaining 50ml of cider to deglaze the pan then lower to a medium heat. Add the strained cooking liquor to the pan reserving about 100ml of the liquid.
- In a separate jug, combine the liquid and the plain flour to create a smooth, thin paste before adding to the pan. Finally, add the mushrooms and 50g of the walnuts and season to taste. Allow to cook for 5 minutes to thicken the sauce. Spoon into a large pie dish and allow to slightly cool.
- Take the remaining walnuts and roughly chop and melt the butter ready for assembly. When it has slightly cooled, place a sheet of filo on top of the pie mixture and brush liberally with butter. Scatter generously with the chopped nuts and repeat with another 2 layers. On the top layer, take a couple of filo sheets and crumple to give texture. Brush with the remaining butter before cooking in a pre-heat oven at 190c/gas 5 for 25-30 mins.
- Remove from the oven when golden brown and bubbling at the sides. Allow to stand for 5 mins before serving with seasonal greens such as kale or sprouts and mash potato.
- Chef’s perks – rabbit offal is delicious! Subtle but packed full of flavour, be sure not to throw the giblets away!
- This pie can be frozen before it is cooked. Cover carefully before freezing, and allow to fully defrost before cooking. Don’t butter the top layer of filo before freezing – do this after defrosting and before placing in the oven.