My wife had gone with a friend to have her nails done, it was a nice sunny if cold day. So having a couple of hours to spare I decided to have a walk round and show my face at a 400 acre farm I had not visited for a while.
The farmer invited me to thin out the rabbits that were decimating the garden a few years ago, this supplied us with many a rabbit pie until they were decimated by myximytosis in a week. I picked up some cartridges and my semi auto 12 bore. Its a Biakal I bought it about a year ago for wildfowling but I do find it select it for rough shooting quite a bit.
The farm is in north Staffordshire about 20 minutes from my Peak District home. The terrain is very hilly with a lot of scrub cover and the farmer has been having trouble with hares eating his newly planted woodland, I have often seen him bent over the plantings cutting back the damaged saplings. I have a Springer spaniel, Sam, who i am training as my first gundog. So I took him along and we did some training exercises and then i put him back in his crate. About 10 minutes later, i flushed a hare in thick scrub and shot it.
back at home I cleaned the hare and jointed it. My wife and I have an arrangement, the game does not come into the house until it looks like it has come from the butchers.
The next evening we had snow. I went to a local farm of about 80 acres about 10 minutes away. Sam had retrieved a cold rabbit, and I now wanted to move him onto a warm one. As I got out of the car it was blowing a gale and freezing cold, and the sky to the north was black.
I pulled on my Stormcloth camo outfit over my other clothes, yet my top half still felt the cold. I moved down the field into the wind, and a couple of rabbits moved off well out of range. I moved across the hill towards another warren and had a shot but missed. There was a flash of lightning and a roll of thunder. I picked up the cartridge case and turned round a mound back the way I had come. The hail hit me full in the face and another flash of forked lightning lit the sky, closely followed by a set of thunder rolls. I took refuge from the elements in a depression above a warren, opening up my game bag to lie on. The storm moved by, and the sky brightened. Rabbits appear around the far warren, and after a while one appeared below me, crossing from right to left. I shot it, walked out to collect it and used the game bag for it's proper purpose. I then returned to the car.
While lying in the field, I had noticed cars could not get up the steep hill i used to get home, so I took the longer route with less snow. Upon arriving home I took Sam out of the car and threw the rabbit like a dummy and sent him out for it. After a little sniffing and pawing, he fetched it back. So another step had been made on his journey to becoming a working spaniel. I put the rabbit back in the bag to sort out in the morning.
it had snowed over night, and there were several inches, but it was bright, sunny and the wind had died away. Domestic duties beckoned, and this delayed preparing the rabbit. I did not know how the new cleaner would feel seeing me with a half done rabbit in the garden. i did not want to put her off. So I skinned, washed and jointed it while she was hoovering upstairs.
Time to make a pie.
I put both the hare and the rabbit into a large pan with three whole skinned onions, brought it to the boil and put it in the Aga simmering oven. I browned off a pound of cubed stewing steak. Peel a couple of pounds of potatoes, and finally a pound of carrots cut up into half inch pieces. Bring them to the boil, and place them in the Aga to simmer. This all makes a big pie. It fills a large Aga oven dish, enough to serve ten to twelve people. Simmer until the veg is aldente, or a little more if you prefer. Simmer the meat until you can strip it off the bone. Although i is hot, I often use my fingers and cut up the larger pieces. The juices from browning the beef, a couple of stock cubes, some stock form the rabbit and hare and water form the vegetables can all go together to make a rich gravy. This can be thickened with cornflower if you so wish. I have been known to cheat and use gravy granules for speed on the odd occasion. Then mix everything together. Add salt pepper, bay leaf, herbs etc to taste.
Grease a large pie dish and line it with pastry, pour in the filling, dampen the pastry edge, and cover with a pastry top. Make a couple of holes in the lid to allow steam to escape, and pain the top with milk or beaten egg.
Put in a hot oven until golden brown, this will cook the vegetables a bit more. Enjoy.
Pastry Recipe. 2lbs. self raising flour, 8ozs. margarine, 8 ozs. Lard. Very cold water, rub fat into flour thoroughly, then add water slowly to bind together and roll out.
Utensils. 6” cooks knife, 6” boning knife, filleting knife, cheap cleaver, chopping board and bin bags. I find these cope with all elements of game preparation.