One of the things I love about living here is the availability of a wide variety of game meats. Meats that were impossible to come by in the states, like venison, can be picked up in the local grocer, though we prefer to hit up the market or the local butcher. Once I realized I had two places I could get rabbit from (cheaply, no less) I decided to make something with it, because if there’s one thing I know, it’s that Thumper is every bit as delicious as Bambi’s mom.
Rabbit meat’s pretty lean, so it benefits from slow cooking in some kind of broth (so, stew or a pie, like this one). This recipe’s adapted from Jamie Oliver, and it’s fantastic. If you can’t get rabbit, try it with chicken instead, but if you can get your hands on a rabbit, definitely give it a try–it’s fab.
A rabbit: If you’re getting it from a butcher, see if he or she will cut it up for you, because breaking it down at home can be a giant pain. If you get it from somewhere whole, you can find instructions for breaking down a rabbit here.
Leeks: We picked up a monster leek at the farmers’ market for just a pound. If you can’t find one roughly the size of a small child like we did, you’ll need about 3-4 regular-sized ones.
Cider: The recipe calls for cider, by which it means alcoholic cider. Contrary to popular belief, not all the alcohol burns off during cooking, so if you’re making this for someone who can’t or shouldn’t have alcohol, use a high-quality apple juice (try and find one with no added sugar) instead. You can also omit the cider and just double up on the stock.
Rabbit and Leek Pie
6 rashers smoked streaky bacon or 4 rashers smoked back bacon, diced
4 leeks (depending on size)
3 sprigs rosemary
1 rabbit, jointed into 8 pieces
a knob of butter
600 mL (about 2 1/2 cups) chicken stock
500 mL (just over 2 cups, or 1 typical-size bottle) good-quality cider
Spinach or chard
zest of 1 lemon (don’t omit this–it really makes the dish)
1 egg, beaten and mixed with a little water
Fry the bacon in a bit of oil in a large pan or casserole. When the fat starts to render, add the leeks and rosemary and cook for 20 minutes or so, stirring often, until the leeks begin to color. Add the rabbit, flour, butter, stock, cider and cook on low for an hour and a half, until the meat’s falling off the bone.
Let the meat rest for a bit to cool off, then pull it off the bones and return the meat to the broth mixture. Stir in the peas and spinach and let simmer for 5 minutes (or longer, if the broth seems too thin). Add the lemon zest.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade (approximately 400 degrees farenheit). Roll out the pastry to about 1 cm thickness. Pour the rabbit/broth mixture into a baking dish and top with the pastry, making slashes so steam can escape. Brush the top with egg wash and pop in the oven for 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden and puffed and the broth is bubbling. Remove and let sit for about 5-10 minutes to calm down. Eat like you’re starving.
By the way, I can happily report that this reheats beautifully and is still delicious a day or two later!