After my Prahran market visit the other week, I was all inspired by the produce available there. In particular, the rabbits from the John Cester Poultry and Game stall caught my eye and had me dreaming of a hearty flakey pie stuffed full of a savoury bunny and vegetable mixture.
With that in mind, I made a return visit to the market to pick up ingredients – a couple of rabbits and assorted vegetables.
John Cester Poultry and Game had both wild and farmed rabbits available for sale. I selected two wild rabbits – the wild ones have a slightly gamier flavour, while the farmed ones are larger and have a bit more fat.
After getting my goodies home, I started the cooking process, which I actually split into two days. On the first day I cooked the filling and made the pastry. Then on the second day, I rolled out the pastry and filled and baked the pies. It’s definitely not an everyday dish.
Rabbit meat is very, very lean, so care does need to be taken when cooking so it doesn’t dry out. For the filling, I simmered the jointed carcass very gently in a mixture of wine and water that was flavoured with chopped vegetables, thyme and sage. After the meat was tender, I pulled it all off the bones, and chopped it up. The vegetables were strained from the cooking liquid, which I then reduced down and thickened, before mixing it back into the meat and vegetables, along with some chopped prunes.
Because I’m not a believer of pot pies (that’s not a pie! it’s a stew with a pastry lid!) I also made pastry. The pastry was made using Maggie Beer’s excellent sour cream pastry recipe. It’s extremely easy to make, easy to deal with, and bakes really well. It’s lighter than a normal shortcrust and comes out really buttery and almost flakey. It’s going to be my new go to pastry recipe.
Two rabbits made enough filling for two large pies or – as I did – one large pie and four individual smaller pies.
If you can’t get rabbit (or just don’t like it) you could always substitute chicken.
We had the pies for dinner with cavolo nero that I just simmered in salted water until tender, steamed dutch carrots, and an excellent mashed potato made using Dutch Cream potatoes from M J Mow Gourmet Potatoes. I asked for a good mashing potato and the Dutch Creams came highly recommended. They really did make an fantastic mash – very creamy – and one of the best mashed potatoes I’ve made.
Thanks to Prahran Market for the ingredients. Rabbit pie was a big success – an excellent winter dish.
Now tell me: what are your thoughts on rabbit? How do you like to have it?
- 2 rabbits, jointed
- 5 slices of bacon
- 2 medium onions, peeled and finely diced
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
- 2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
- 2 celery stalks, finely diced
- 1 tsp dried sage
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 cup white wine
- 3 cups water
- 1 bay leaf
- 220g pitted prunes, finely chopped
- 80g plain flour
- 80g butter
- salt and pepper
- 2 x 1.5 litre pie dish or 8 individual pie tins
- 250g plain flour
- 200g unsalted butter, chilled
- 120ml sour cream
- Large pinch of salt
- Wash the rabbit joints and set aside.
- Heat a frying pan on medium-high heat with a splash of oil.
- Fry the bacon until cooked and remove from the pan. Let cool slightly, then finely dice.
- In a big pot, heat another dash of oil on medium-low heat, and add the onion, garlic, carrots and celery. Put the lid on and let the vegetables cook for about 5-10 minutes, or until soft.
- Add the dried sage, thyme, bay leaf plus the finely diced bacon.
- Add the rabbit joints and the wine and water, plus a heaped teaspoon of salt.
- Bring the liquid up to a gentle simmer, skimming off any scum or foam, and with the lid on allow to simmer gently for about an hour, or until the rabbit is tender.
- When the rabbit is tender, remove the rabbit pieces and set aside to cool.
- Strain all the vegetables into a large mixing bowl, reserving the cooking liquid. Remove and discard the bay leaf.
- When the rabbit is cool, pull all the meat off the bones, and cut into 1.5cm dice. Add the meat to the vegetables with the prunes and discard the bones.
- Place the cooking liquid back into the original cooking pot and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer.
- Make a smooth paste by mixing together the butter and flour, then add the paste into the cooking liquid in small nut sized pieces. Stir to melt and thicken the sauce.
- Pour the sauce into the pie filling mixture – don’t add all of it – just enough to moisten the mixture. It might only need half of the sauce. Taste the filling and add salt and pepper if necessary.
- Set filling aside to cool.
- Once cool, make the sour cream pastry – you may want to do it in two batches rather than one big batch.
- Chop all the butter into small cubes and place into a food processor.
- Add the flour and process until it looks like breadcrumbs.
- Add the sour cream gradually until the dough starts to come together. You may not need all the sour cream.
- Turn onto a floured bench and pull together. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 20 minutes.
- Roll out the pastry to line two large pies or eight small individual pies.
- Refrigerate the pie pastry cases and the lids for 20 minutes.
- Divide the filling between the chilled pastry cases.
- Position the lids over the pies, and using a fork, press down around the edge of each pie to seal and trim away any excess pastry.
- Cut out a hole at the top of each pie to let out steam.
- Refrigerate the pies while heating the oven to 200°C.
- Brush the tops of each pie with milk or egg-wash and bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and rest for five minutes before turning out.
Recipe adapted from Delia Online