Recipe: Confit rabbit and wholegrain-mustard pie that’s sustainable and healthy

Chef Steven Ellis shares this delicious recipe for a classic winter dish: rabbit pie.

Eating game isn’t just tasty: it’s healthy and sustainable too, explains Steven, whose pub Oxford Blue is in Old Windsor, Berkshire. A January health-kick can be kick-started by swapping your usual meat for game.

‘Historically, game cookery was associated with winter stews and strong, ‘gamey’ flavours, but this preconception needs to change,’ he adds.

‘We have game in abundance in this country and part of managing it correctly involves ensuring that animals are culled at peak condition for the table, rather than for trophy heads.’

As for what to have alongside this delicious pie?

‘To serve, you can’t go wrong with mash and gravy,’ says Simon. ‘But to “fancy it up”, I add glazed carrots and rabbit loins wrapped in Parma ham, pan-fried and sliced.’

Steven Ellis is the chef-proprietor of The Oxford Blue, 10, Crimp Hill, Old Windsor, Berkshire; 01753 331072; www.oxfordbluepub.co.uk

Ingredients

For the pastry

  • 75g lard
  • 100ml boiling water
  • 300g plain flour
  • Half a teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

For the filling

  • 10 sprigs of thyme
  • 50g rock salt
  • 2 rabbit legs
  • 500g duck fat
  • One bay leaf
  • 50g butter
  • 50g plain flour
  • 400ml chicken stock
  • 50ml white wine
  • 1tbspn wholegrain mustard

Method

Preheat your oven to 180˚C/350˚F/gas mark 4.

 For the pastry, melt the lard in the boiling water. In a separate bowl, combine with the flour, bicarbonate of soda and a pinch of salt. Once bound together, wrap in clingfilm and leave to rest for 30 minutes (don’t chill it, as it will be difficult to work with).

 For the filling, mix half of the thyme with the rock salt and rabbit legs in a bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge for one hour, to allow the salt to absorb into the legs.

 Remove the rabbit from the bowl, rinse under cold water to remove any visible salt and pat dry. Place the legs, duck fat, bay leaf and remaining thyme into an ovenproof pot with a lid. Cook in the oven for up to three hours (checking every hour), until the meat is tender and pulls away from the bone with ease, then place on the side to cool down to room temperature. Once cooled, pick the rabbit into decent pieces to give the pie mix a good texture once bound—no one wants a pie full of mush.

 In a separate pan, melt the butter and add the flour. Cook this out for two minutes, then gradually add the chicken stock, a little at a time, until you have a consistency you’re happy with. Add the wine and mustard, season to taste and leave to cool before mixing in the rabbit meat.

 To create your pie, roll out the pastry to about 5mm thick. Cut out a large circle using a small side plate as a guide, then a smaller circle using your chosen pastry ring (this will be your lid). Place the pastry base in a greased pastry ring — if you’re struggling, hang the pastry over the end of a rolling pin and use this to ease it inside the ring. Spoon in the rabbit mixture, leaving a gap of about ½in at the top to prevent it spilling over when cooking.

 Put the pastry lid on top and seal with a little water, trimming off any excess pastry with a sharp knife. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, remove the ring and lightly brush the pie with a little egg, then return to the oven for a further 15 minutes.