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I kept rabbits as a child and I was so distraught when a fox ate them, I didn’t eat rabbit until my thirties! I’ve found it makes a great pie filling when combined with a little pancetta, to balance its leanness. Make this warming, hearty dish during autumn and winter when you’ll really appreciate it and rabbit is at its best.
Make the flaky pastry following the step-by-step recipe on page 000. Wrap the dough in cling film and leave to chill in the fridge while you make the filling.
Heat a large flameproof casserole over a high heat and add the butter and oil. Working in batches, brown the rabbit well all over (include the liver and kidneys, if you have them, for extra flavour).
Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the pancetta to the pan, reduce the heat a little and cook for 4 minutes or until golden and beginning to crisp around the edges. Add to the rabbit.
Turn the heat to low. Add the onion, garlic and fennel to the pan and cook gently for 2–3 minutes. Add the wine, increase the heat and let it bubble for a couple of minutes, scraping the base of the pan with a spatula to release any caramelised bits. Return the rabbit and pancetta to the pan. Add the stock and bay leaf, bring to a simmer, cover and simmer gently for 1½ hours, until the rabbit is tender.
Remove the rabbit from the pan and leave until cool enough to handle, then strip the meat from the bones and put into a large bowl.
Bring the contents of the pan to the boil and boil to reduce the liquid by half. Stir in the cream and bring back to the boil. Add the parsley, taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper as required. Return the rabbit meat to the pan and turn to coat in the sauce. Divide the filling between 4 individual pie dishes. Leave to cool.
Heat your oven to 200°C/gas 6.
On a floured surface, roll out the pastry to about 5mm thick. Brush the edges of the pie dishes with beaten egg and cut pieces of pastry to place over each. Press round the edges to seal and trim off the excess pastry neatly. Brush the top of the pies with more egg.
Bake for 20–30 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and the filling bubbling. Leave to settle for 10 minutes or so, then serve, with plain boiled potatoes, carrots and a green vegetable.
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