Sampling rare delights of underground mutton

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As our climate relentlessly progresses towards the nastier aspects of winter, my mind constantly turns to any strategy that might present some spiritual relief from the gloom of early darks and overcast skies.

Generally speaking, there is not too much cheer on offer at the moment, but like many others I find great comfort in pampering my taste buds as a morale boosting exercise. Nothing elaborate, mind you, just anything slightly out of the ordinary that doesn’t cost the earth or result in massive indigestion.

Which brings me to the subject of the bunch presenting various aspects of modern cuisine on our television screens.

It seems the (lemon?) sole reason for their presence on the screen is to devise endlessly complex ways to adulterate basic food ingredients into platefuls of muck my dog wouldn’t touch. I’m afraid very little of these can reel me in, although that Hugh Ferlie Wherlie bloke comes up with a few good ideas now and then, and his sense of humour is a little like my own.

It is my proud boast that having survived dangerous mealtimes during my secondary education, the British Army, and the Scottish Police College, I can tackle any meal that does not actually have something still moving on the plate – but I would not go anywhere near some of the stuff the tellycookers dish up.

Having endured yet another Pilgrim diatribe and just before you screw up The Wee Paper into a ball, I think I really ought to make a start on my subject for this week.

It all started with an enigmatic message from a good mate to meet him in the Square at midday as he had something for me. Mystified, I showed up on time and found myself presented with a brace of ferret-caught rabbits of the finest quality. As you may know I gave up trying to murder wildlife many years ago, but in what some might view as hypocrisy, I still enjoy eating the stuff whenever the opporchancity presents itself.

Thus it was I wandered home with my bag of late bunnies, attracting keen interest from any dog I passed. It did not take too long to bring about the transformation from animal to edible meat, and I found the skills required are as good as when I was taught them as a lad by my Uncle Sid who was an inveterate poacher of the old school.

My next bit of thinking centred on what I could do with the result of my butchering efforts; thankfully that was a no-brainer as the simple formula of rabbit meat plus pastry equals rabbit pie every time.

Although I have made rabbit pie before, I like a wee change, so taking matters in their logical sequence, I went to see Mr Google for a new rabbit pie recipe, discarding all the elaborate versions in favour of a nice simple job that gave me a sporting chance of producing my pie without a disaster.

The next stage was to shop for the right ingredients – all those who observed my recent late-evening quest in various Selkirk emporia will now realise how important it was to get the right stuff. Laden with all I required, I returned home and gave it my best for the day. I knew it would take me ages to knock up my pie and it seemed only sensible to devote a whole day to the work.

Bright and early next day, well actually it was around half past 10, I started out on the job and before too long some most agreeable odours began to circulate. Fearful of severe domestic remonstration for “stinking the place out”, I switched on the kitchen extractor fan and thus shared a tempting fragrance with the neighbours.

Having thus created the pie filling, it was time for the pastry covering. Now making pastry is an accomplishment that I have yet to attain, so out of the freezer came a nice pack of ready-made puff pastry.

Seizing Mrs Pilgrim’s weapons-grade rolling pin, I rolled out the dough and in no time at all, a sheet of pastry to the right thickness lay before my gaze. My next move was to hunt out the biggest pie dish, said by some to be large enough to bath a bairn in, from one of those cupboards where opening the door produces a clattering avalanche of hastily stowed pots and pans from which the intrepid cook (that’s me by the way) selects something vaguely suitable.

By some freak of chance the carefully stewed pie filling was exactly the amount needed to fill the pie dish, allowing room for the pie funnel of course. On went the pastry, and after a minor amount of cosseting the pie was put to the oven at gas mark 5, or as near as our oven could get to that figure.

The advantages of having two rabbits for one pie are several. It means only the very best of the meat goes into the pie, but be assured there was no waste. All meat scraps remaining were stewed up, picked over, and then minced as dog and cat food enthusiastically received by the Grey Hooligan and the Kitten From Hell.

I hope to repeat this splendid rural treat in the near future, perchance with an adapted curry recipe from Pat Neil’s wee book of eastern magic.

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