Rabbit Pie

Try this traditional Rabbit Pie for a family supper, served with carrots and mashed potatoes. A glass of chilled beer would go well with this dish. The pie may also be served cold.

4 oz. butter

1 X 4 lb. rabbit, cleaned and cut into serving pieces

4 onions, finely chopped

6 celery stalks, trimmed and chopped

1½ teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon dried thyme

½ teaspoon dried sage

1 pint home-made chicken stock 8 oz. button mushrooms, wiped clean and halved

6 oz. flour

½ teaspoon salt

4 oz. butter

3 TO 4 tablespoons iced water

1 egg, beaten

First make the pastry. Sift the flour and salt into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Cut the butter into small, walnut-sized pieces and add them to the flour. Pour in the iced water and, with a knife, mix quickly into a dough, which should be lumpy.

On a floured surface, roll out the dough into an oblong shape. Fold it in three and turn it so that the open edges face you. Roll again into an oblong shape and fold and turn as before. Repeat this once again to make three folds and turns in all. Wrap the dough in greaseproof or waxed paper and put it in the refrigerator to chill.

Meanwhile, make the filling. In a large saucepan, melt half the butter over moderate heat. When the foam subsides, add the rabbit pieces and half of the onions and cook, stirring constantly, for 10 to 12 minutes or until the rabbit is lightly and evenly browned. Add half of the celery and cook, stirring frequently, for a further 3 minutes.

Sprinkle over 1 teaspoon of the salt, the pepper, thyme and sage. Pour in the stock. Increase the heat to high and, stirring constantly, bring the liquid to the boil, skimming off any scum which rises to the surface with a metal spoon. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and simmer for 1 to 1 ½ hours or until the meat is tender when pierced with the point of a sharp knife.

Meanwhile, in a medium-sized frying-pan, melt the remaining butter over moderate heat. When the foam subsides, add the remaining onions and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes or until the onions are soft and translucent but not brown. Add the mushrooms and cook for a further 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Keep warm.

Preheat the oven to fairly hot 400°F (Gas Mark 6, 200°C).

Remove the saucepan from the heat and, using a slotted spoon, transfer the rabbit pieces to a chopping board. Pour the cooking liquid through a strainer into a measuring jug. Discard the vegetables in the strainer.

Measure 16 fluid ounces of the stock and reserve it. Discard the remainder.

Chop the rabbit pieces into 1-inch cubes, discarding bones and fat. Place the cubes in a large pie dish. Add the mushroom mixture to the dish and pour over the reserved stock. Sprinkle over the remaining salt.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a circle 1-inch larger than the top of the pie dish. With a knife, cut a i-inch strip around the edge of the dough. With a pastry brush dipped in water, dampen the rim of the dish. Press the dough strip on to the rim. Lightly moisten the strip with a little water.

Using the rolling pin, lift the dough on to the dish. With a knife, trim the dough and, with your fingers, crimp the edges to seal them to the strip on the dish. With a sharp knife, make a small cross in the middle of the dough. With a pastry brush, brush the surface of the dough with the beaten egg.

Roll out the trimmings and use them to make a decoration for the top of the pie.

Place the pic in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Remove the pie from the oven and serve immediately.

A traditional dish, Rabbit Pie is filled with juicy rabbit and vegetables and topped with light puff pastry. &

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