Bunny pie

There’s been yet more stocking up. The other week it was game, and now it’s booze. Wine for me, beer for him. Look what the postman brought:

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Christmas booze is in

Despite appearances, I can’t actually drink that much; two glasses and I’ll be knocked out with a bad head for a couple of days (and I don’t even touch coffee). Tanners wine merchants are great as they do a serious selection of half-bottles, perfect for the wino-lightweight like me. If you like wine, go to Tanners!

Onto the food. Last night Matt tried to kill me with pie. Not just any pie: rabbit pie, topped with dumplings, then pastry, and then served with roast potatoes.

I’ll say that again: meat and gravy and dumplings wrapped in pastry and served with fried potato. Now exhale.

Our relationship has been marked by things-wrapped-in-pastry, from the high of a beef and oyster pie (Birmingham) to the nadir of the fish and chip pasty (Devon). The best sausage rolls are from Tebay services on the M6 and best Cornish pasties from a dinky little shop in St Ives. Pie is an ongoing obsession.

So bunny pie it is and this one may actually create a heart attack. It’s also a bit of a faff…but worth it.

I have mixed feelings about the stuffing balls – they do definitely add something, but you need to be sturdy of stomach to cope with the sheer quantity of carbs. Maybe just keep them small. Either way, there is no need for roasties with this, just a few greens would do.

Make sure you use a proper wild bunny if you can as they are cheap right now, taste good and won’t have led the miserable life of a farmed rabbit. This one came from Ludlow.

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Bunny pie

Matt’s bunny pie with dumplings

Adapted from Rick Stein’s Food Heroes

Step 1: The Bunny

1 large rabbit, jointed (the butcher will do this for you)

1 tbsp plain flour

Knob of butter

200g smoked lardons

1 onion, finely chopped

225g carrots, peeled and diced

Zest of 1 lemon

Thyme

600ml or so fresh chicken stock (it does need to be fresh, not from a stock cube I think, as you need that wonderful gelatinous quality)

Brown the rabbit in butter over a medium heat and transfer to a heavy casserole. Add the bacon to the frying pan and heat until the fat runs, then add the onions, carrots and a few sprigs of thyme to the pan. Cook over a low heat until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in the flour and cook it through for a minute or two, grate the lemon zest over the top and add the stock. Bring it to a simmer, making sure you pick up all the nice brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

Transfer the lot to the casserole, cover, bring it to a simmer and cook until the bunny is tender – about 45 minutes to an hour. Don’t be tempted to cook it for ages as it just dries out the rabbit. Leave to cool, overnight is fine. In the meantime you can make your pastry and put it in the fridge to chill (see below).

Next is the faffy but essential bit. You need to fish out your rabbit pieces and flake all the meat from the bone, being careful to discard all the little sharp bones. Stir the meat back into the gravy and adjust the seasoning / consistency of the filling as you need. Pour the lot into a suitably sized pie dish.

Step 2: Pastry

225g plain flour

100g hard butter, cubed

cold water

Make up your shortcrust in the normal way: rub the butter into the flour, either with your fingers or using a food processor (I use my hands). Add in enough chilled water to bring the pastry together, knead for a few seconds to even out the texture, then wrap in clingfilm and pop in the fridge to rest for an hour or two.

Step 3: Stuffing balls

100g fresh breadcrumbs

50g suet

handful chopped parsley

thyme

zest of half a lemon

50g smoked lardons

1 egg, beaten

Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl and then add enough egg to bind it all together. Shape into balls, the original recipe says they should be walnut sized but Matt’s are more like satsumas. Place evenly on top of the waiting bunny mixture.

Step 3: Make up the pie!

Put the oven to 220c.

Roll out your pastry to about the thickness of a pound coin and transfer to cover your pie – there will probably be a bit too much, which you can use for another recipe. Seal the edges, put a slit in the top for steam and then brush with a little milk.

Bake your pie until the balls are risen and the pastry crunchy and browned – about 40 minutes should do it, depending on the size of your stuffing balls and the thickness of the pastry. Turn the oven down if it’s browning too quickly.

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