Rabbit and Quince Pie

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Most of the products at the Bakery we tailor to customers’ tastes, as at the end of the day we want everyone to enjoy our food. Every now and then we make something that we know is not going to be a bestseller, but we make it anyway because we want to try different things to challenge ourselves, always with the hope that we will stumble onto something unique and truly tasty. This pie is one of those efforts.

This rabbit pie was made especially for the Easter holiday. Bugs Bunny would have been happy to die for this pie and in his pastry grave he would have no greater friend than in-season quinces.

Ingredients

Pickled Quinces

  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) white wine vinegar
  • 6 juniper berries
  • 4 cloves
  • 5 whole peppercorns
  • 6 quinces, peeled, cored and quartered
  • 1.5 kg (3 lb 5 oz) rabbit, cleaned and cut into 3 cm (1¼ inch) pieces, reserving the bones (ask your butcher to do this)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 30 ml (1 fl oz/ tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
  • 100 g ( oz) red onions, finely chopped
  • 10 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 6 juniper berries
  • 20 thyme sprigs, leaves picked
  • 100 g ( oz) celery, finely chopped
  • 100 g ( oz) pearl barley
  • ½ teaspoon potato flour
  • 5 g ( oz/1 teaspoon) salt
  • g ( oz/½ teaspoon) freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 quantity savoury shortcrust pastry
  • ½ quantity puff pastry
  • egg wash, for brushing
  • cumin seeds, for sprinkling

Method

To make the pickled quince, put the sugar, white wine vinegar, juniper berries, cloves and peppercorns into a heavy stainless steel saucepan over medium heat. Add the quince quarters, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 2 hours, or until tender but firm. Remove the quince quarters from the pan and set aside to cool. The cooking syrup can be poured over any left-over quince and stored in a sterilised airtight jar. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 months and can be used to accompany cheese or as a garnish for pâté or salad.

Put the rabbit bones in a large saucepan with the bay leaf, celery and carrot. Cover with 2.5 litres (87 fl oz/10 cups) water and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour, or until aromatic. Strain the stock, discarding the bones, and set aside.

Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the juniper berries, thyme, celery and rabbit meat and cook for 5 minutes, or until the rabbit has lost its pink colour. Pour in enough stock to cover the rabbit and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 1½ hours until the meat is nearly tender.

Add the barley to the pan and continue cooking over low heat for about 30 minutes, or until the meat and barley are tender. Strain off the liquid into another saucepan, reserving the rabbit mixture in a large container. Measure the cooking liquid — an ideal amount is 200 ml (7 fl oz). If you have more than this continue to cook the liquid over high heat until reduced. Mix together the potato flour and 2 teaspoons water and add to the cooking liquid. Pour the sauce over the rabbit mixture, add the salt and pepper, and stir through with the quince. Allow to cool.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/Gas 6). Roll out the savoury pastry following the instructions and use it to line the base and sides of six 12.5 cm ( inch) pie tins. Roll out the puff pastry following the instructions and cut out six circles with a 13.5 cm ( inch) diameter to make the pie lids.

Spoon the mixture into the pastry-lined pie tins, filling them to the brim. To attach the puff pastry lids, brush the rim of the pastry base and lid with a little egg wash and lay the lid over the base. Pinch gently between your thumb and index finger to make a good seal around the circumference edge. Brush the top of the pie lid with egg wash, sprinkle with cumin seeds, and make a small hole in the middle to allow steam to escape. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4) and bake the pies for 30–35 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Remove the pies from the tins and leave to cool for a few minutes before serving.