Rabbit and crayfish stargazy pie

Serves 4

This was the dish that challenged me on The Great British Menu back in 2007. Rabbit and crayfish are both classed as vermin and in need of culling, so I wanted to think of a way we could eat them.

The back and front legs from 4 wild rabbits, meat removed and cut into rough 2cm chunks
1tbsp vegetable oil
A couple of good knobs of butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
2tbsp flour plus extra for dusting
100ml cider
1ltr hot chicken stock
40 live crayfish, cooked for 2 minutes in boiling salted water and refreshed
3-4tbsp double cream
1tbsp chopped parsley

For the pastry

225g self-raising flour
1tsp salt
85g shredded beef suet
60g chilled coarsely grated butter
1 medium egg, beaten, to glaze

Heat a heavy-bottomed frying pan with the vegetable oil. Season and flour the pieces of rabbit; fry on a high heat for a couple of minutes until lightly coloured. Gently cook the onion in the butter in a saucepan for 2-3 minutes then stir in the flour and gradually add the cider and hot chicken stock, stirring to prevent lumps forming. Add the rabbit and simmer for about an hour or until the rabbit is tender. Peel the crayfish, reserving 4 whole ones for garnish and put the meat to one side.

Break up the shells and fry in a little oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add about 250ml water and about 200ml of the sauce from the rabbit and simmer for 30 minutes. Blend a third of the sauce, shells and all, in a liquidiser until smooth; add back to the pan. Stir well then strain all of the sauce through a fine-meshed sieve into the rabbit mixture. The rabbit sauce should be a very thick consistency. Add the cream and parsley and leave to cool. Stir in the crayfish meat and transfer to a pie dish; place a pie bird in the centre.

Meanwhile make the pastry: mix the flour and salt with the suet and grated butter. Mix in about 150-175ml water to form a smooth dough; knead it for a minute. Roll the pastry to about 1cm thick and cut out to about 2cm larger all the way round than the pie dish. Brush the edges of the pastry with a little beaten egg; lay the pastry on top, pressing the egg-washed sides against the rim of the dish. Cut 4 holes around the pastry and insert the tails of the 4 reserved crayfish so that they are facing the centre and brush with beaten egg. You can put a trim around the edge of the dish with a strip of leftover pastry. Leave to rest in a cool place for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the pastry is golden. Serve with greens or mashed root vegetables and small potatoes boiled with parsley.

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