Rabbit Pie and Christmas Cookies

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This week was noteworthy for us as almost all our evening meals contained some kind of local game.

We had roast wild duck (roasting recipe came from Hugh F.-W. at River Cottage) with an improvised soy/orange sauce and soy/sesame steamed broccoli. WOW, was that a delicious meal! I can’t believe people don’t eat duck.  It’s really amazing! And really, quite cheap. And our duck (wild ducks are much smaller than farmed ducks) fed all four of us with enough leftover for my lunch the next day. We will be eating a lot of duck. The kids ate it faster than just about any meat they’ve ever eaten. Major win.  I wish I had photos, but didn’t think to take any!

The night after we ate the duck, I decided to make use of a rabbit I’ve had in my freezer for a couple of months. I bought it from the same local game farm that sold me the duck, and it was neatly jointed so was easy to use. I have to admit that I thought I’d never be able to eat, let alone cook, a rabbit. I had pet rabbits throughout my childhood, and even as an adult. I love rabbits and bunnies and hares and all their fuzzy adorableness. I love spotting wild rabbits in the grass. I love bunny toys and bunny stories and cute knick-knacks with bunnies on them.  Watership Down is probably my favorite book of ALL time. I’m still a little surprised that I was able to go through with this plan. After seeing several episodes of River Cottage about how healthy, cheap, and ecologically friendly it is to eat wild rabbits, I was convinced that I should try.  I’m really glad that I did, and will eat rabbit again and again, I’m sure.

The meat is really beautiful and lean — a little darker than chicken, and lots of meat on those bones. I decided it might be easiest for my first attempt at rabbit to make a casserole or something similar, so I wasn’t faced with a big chunk of bunny on my plate. So I decided to do something rather British and make a meat pie.  As far as I can remember, I’ve never done such a thing before.  Not even a chicken pot pie.

I looked at several recipes and took the best parts from a few different ones. I made it pretty simple, with a strait-forward mix of veg: carrots, leeks, onion, celery, and potatoes. (No peas, since Brad isn’t a big fan). I first browned the rabbit and the onion in a large casserole dish (the fabulous Le Creuset that was here when we arrived — I’m going to miss it!) and then covered it with water, added a bay leaf, and simmered for about an hour and 45 minutes. Toward the end of the simmer time, I added the vegetables, a few herbs and spices, and a little flour to thicken. When the rabbit had simmered long enough, I took it out, removed the meat from the bones, and allowed the sauce to reduce a bit. I then added the rabbit back in, greased my baking dishes, lined them with pre-made shortcrust pastry that I just had to roll a bit (love that stuff!), and baked them. They came out absolutely perfect. I was astounded. Usually I’m total rubbish at baking with any kind of pastry. I guess i’ve learned my lesson: always buy pre-made pastry!

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I made three pies as I didn’t have a really large dish suitable for one big one.  The kids shared one, I put one in the freezer, and Brad and I dug into the biggie.  There are leftovers in the fridge that we will eat tomorrow night.  This one rabbit will have fed all four of us twice for dinner and that’s not counting the small pie in the freezer.

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The rabbit was a bit smelly whilst it was cooking on the stove, but the flavor didn’t have any of that weird “gaminess” that I expected. It really did taste kinda like chicken. It was rich and tasty, and the kids liked it, too! I did tell them that it was a rabbit pie, and they didn’t seem to mind. (Although, Flora kept me company while I was cooking and kept asking me “where is the fur?” and “Where is the head?”….slightly problematic, and I don’t think I did a spectacular job explaining things.)

I had some leftover pre-made pastry, so I got out my last jar of mincemeat and made a mincemeat galette.  The kids didn’t get any.

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The night after our rabbit adventure, I made venison stew.  Again, with meat from the same game farm.  It was an incredibly cheap piece of leg, with a large bone in the middle.  I stewed it in the slow cooker with vegetables, a little guinness, some stock, and a few herbs and spices.  It was a lot like the lamb shoulder stew I make the same way.  I think the whole meal came to about 5 or 6 pounds.

Today I cooked chilli.  It was SOOOO cold and windy outside, the first time our house got really really cold and we had to light a fire in the wood stove in our living room.  So, the day begged for something hot, stewy, and spicy.  Chilli hit the spot.  This weekend, I will not have to cook at all.  We’ll have lots of yummy leftovers!  And we’ll also have Christmas Cookies!

I’ve been trying so many new things the past few months, but I thought it would be nice to have a little bit of familiar Christmas delight, so I made Peanut Butter Blossoms.  These are some of my favorite Christmas cookies and my mother and grandmother have been making them every year since I can remember.

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Brad ordered me a bag of Hershey’s kisses last week and I baked a batch of about 3.5 dozen today with the intention of sharing some with a few local friends.  I was nervous because I’m working with non-American ingredients, and sometimes they just don’t work the same in recipes.  I substituted half coconut oil and half butter for the shortening/margarine that the recipe usually calls for.  It seemed to work fine and they came out tasting just like I expected!

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I also made some PB&J thumbprint cookies with the same dough I used for the blossoms. I had a small jar of Morello Cherry Conserve in the pantry that was just begging for such a purpose. YUMMY!

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Last but certainly not least, I decided to use up some marshmallows and almonds and make some rocky road candy. I saw a recipe that looked dead simple, so I gave it a whirl (couldn’t find the recipe, so I improvised). I melted a bunch of different kinds of chocolate together — some milk, some dark, some very dark. I chopped up some almonds and marshmallows, layered them on the bottom of a greased pan, and poured over the melted chocolate. I topped it with some shaved almonds, dried cranberries, and white chocolate with a bit of coconut. I haven’t tried it yet, but it sure looks good!

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3 Responses to Rabbit Pie and Christmas Cookies

  1. Katherine says:

    I love River Cottage, have you seen the episode that shows you how to make a hedge? Always made me want to chuck my job and become a full-time cook/hobby farmer. Merry Christmas!

  2. boazrichards says:

    You just made Holly very happy. I haven’t seen the episode with the hedges, but she has, and had a similar reaction. She was jumping up and down and talking a mile-a-minute when she first told me about the bit with the hedges. 🙂

  3. Katherine says:

    That show does make rural life look so appealing, although, I’m pretty sure I’m not ready to slaughter a pig. The other show I loved to watch, but which has nothing to do with cooking was the original junk-yard wars, but maybe we talked about that once.

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