Get your butcher to prepare the rabbit by removing the front and back legs, taking off the head and splitting it in half, and cutting out and reserving the liver(s) and kidneys, then removing the ribcage and backbone from the saddle without piercing the skin. The two loins of meat should remain intact.
Season all the bits of rabbit with salt and pepper. Put the offal down the centre between the loins of meat, then roll the saddle, encasing the offal, and wrap the roll in the caul and tie in place. Leave to chill in the fridge.
To make the cottage pie: melt a knob of butter with a splash of olive oil in a heavy-based pan and colour all the remaining rabbit pieces, including the head and backbone, until golden. Lift out and set aside. Now add another knob of butter and splash of olive oil, and colour the vegetables and garlic. When they are coloured, return the browned rabbit to the pan, add the vinegar and reduce it almost completely away. Add the wine and reduce that by two-thirds. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes, bay and rosemary, bring to the boil and skim. Simmer gently for about 2 hours, until the meat is tender.
Preheat the oven to 170°C/gas 3½. Lift the rabbit out and set aside, then reduce the stock to a good sauce-like consistency. Strain the sauce, reserving the vegetables (you will need these for the pie). Pull the meat from the bones and combine with the vegetables and chopped herbs. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Put the mixture into a pie dish with a few tablespoons of the sauce (the remaining sauce will be for the finished dish) and a drizzle of olive oil. Top this with potato purée.
Put the cottage pie to bake for 40 minutes before you intend to roast the saddle.
Take the saddle(s) from the fridge about 30 minutes before roasting to come to room temperature (meat should never be roasted straight from the fridge, as the exterior will become overcooked and tough). Season with salt and pepper, colour lightly in a pan and roast in the preheated oven alongside the pie for about 10–15 minutes.
Leave to rest for 8 minutes, then carve and serve alongside the cottage pie.
© 2008 Anthony Demetre. All rights reserved.