Rabbit ‘spanakopita’


  • Serves 6 people

  • 200 ml olive oil
  • 1 rabbit, legs and fillets removed, carcass coarsely chopped and reserved (see note)
  • 2 carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 200 ml each Madeira and white wine
  • 3 litres (12 cups) chicken stock
  • ¼ bunch thyme
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 13 sheets filo pastry
  • 150 gm butter, melted, for brushing
  • Spinach, ricotta and feta filling
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 500 gm baby English spinach leaves, washed
  • 350 gm ricotta
  • 250 gm feta, coarsely crumbled
  • Saffron mayonnaise
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ¼ tsp white wine vinegar
  • ¼ tsp Dijon mustard
  • 160 ml (2/3 cup) olive oil
  • 1 gm saffron threads, soaked in 40ml milk for 30 minutes
01   Preheat oven to 120C. Heat half the olive oil in a large frying pan, add rabbit legs and fillets and turn occasionally until golden (7-10 minutes), then transfer to a deep roasting pan. Return frying pan to heat, add vegetables and stir occasionally over medium heat until golden (7-10 minutes), then spread evenly over rabbit. Deglaze pan with Madeira and wine, bring to the boil and cook until reduced by two-thirds (10-12 minutes), then pour over rabbit with stock and herbs, season to taste, cover with aluminium foil and roast until tender(4-5 hours). Cool rabbit in pan juices. When cool enough to handle, remove meat from bones in small pieces and set aside in a bowl to cool completely (reserve bones). Strain pan juices (discard solids) and set aside.
02   Heat a large saucepan over high heat, add remaining olive oil and reserved rabbit carcass and bones and turn occasionally, scraping base of pan, until deep golden (10-15 minutes). Add reserved pan juices and bring to the boil, reduce heat to low and cook until reduced to 200ml (1-1½ hours). Strain sauce through a fine sieve, discarding solids, add to rabbit meat and cool to room temperature.
03   Meanwhile for spinach, ricotta and feta filling, heat oil in a frying pan, add onion and garlic and stir occasionally over medium heat until tender and translucent (5-7 minutes). Add spinach and stir until spinach just wilts (1-2 minutes). Transfer spinach mixture to a colander, strain excess liquid. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until cold. Add cheeses, season to taste, stir to combine well, then add rabbit mixture. Season to taste and mix well.
04   Preheat oven to 170C. Place a sheet of filo pastry on a work surface, brush with butter, top with another sheet and repeat until you have five layers. Cut to fit into a 20cm x 30cm buttered and baking paper-lined deep roasting pan. Spread half spinach and rabbit mixture over filo. Then brush three sheets of filo with butter, stack neatly, cut to fit pan and place on top of spinach mixture. Spread remaining spinach mixture over, repeat with remaining filo, brush top with butter and bake until golden (20-25 minutes). Cool slightly and cut into six portions.
05   Meanwhile, for saffron mayonnaise, whisk egg yolks, vinegar and mustard in a bowl until thick, then add olive oil in a thin steady stream, whisking vigorously until combined. Add saffron and milk mixture, stir to combine and season to taste. Serve with rabbit ‘spanakopita.’
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