My first taste of rabbit was in my childhood, and I wasn’t keen. Mum had tried to pass it off as chicken but Dad let the cat out of the bag so-to-speak by commenting on how tasty it was.
My second sampling was on a poetry course in 1974 when they dished up a rabbit stew for the attending 10 people. Whilst I was still unsure of the meat, I did like the veg and gravy, so I suppose in a way I was making progress.
The first rabbit I cooked was also in a stew, and although it wasn’t bad, I have to confess I’d have preferred a liver casserole. I only cooked it once for the family, because as soon as they realised it was rabbit, the children pushed their full plates away, and the dogs got all excited.Moving here has been an experience, and a learning curve. Hubby worked on pest control for a while, and it was not unusual for him to come home with a couple of rabbits for the pot.
We were walking the dog one afternoon and bumped into an elderly gentleman who owned a black labrador. We’d seen him several times, but this particular day we started chatting and the subject of rabbit pies came up. Having 2 married daughters, he lived alone and told me he hadn’t had a rabbit pie since his wife died some 5 years before, so I promised that the next time I made one, I’d make one for him.
It was a couple of weeks later that I fulfilled my promise and took it into his shop. When he saw what I had in my hand, he nudged his daughter who was working behind the counter that day and said ‘She said she’d make me a rabbit pie. Do you think she really has and that’s for me?’
He was over the moon that I’d remembered.
I made him another a month or so later, and again he was pleased that I’d thought of him when I baked.
My recipe is nothing special really. I think puff pastry is nicer than shortcrust for it, and so I cheated by buying a packet as mine sucks. The jointed rabbit is cooked in salted water in the pressure cooker first so that all the meat falls off the bone and is nice and tender. I line the base of the pie dish with pastry, then layer meat, diced potatoes, onions, diced swede (all partially cooked) and a final layer of meat at the top. I make a thick-ish sauce with cornflour, a light sprinkling of black pepper, 2 veg stock cubes and hot water, pouring this over the layers before topping the dish with pastry, and putting a couple of cuts in the top. I glaze the top with milk (or beaten egg if I have it) then bake it in a moderate oven (gas mark 4 – 5, 180 C, 350 F) until the top is golden brown and puffed up (about 35 – 40 minutes) .
Although I have made rabbit pies for several people since, none have given me the satisfaction this did of making one particular gentleman’s day. Just a passing comment, a promise made and a bit of my time. The feel good factor was enormous. He didn’t even know my name, but that didn’t matter.