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How to cook a Pigeon

Pigeon Fanciers Look Away…

It may seem strange to some that a recent post would extol the presence and importance of wildlife in our own backyard and yet hold the common pigeon in a contempt unbefitting someone of my standing in the natural world ;)

Well I’ve never liked the feathered rat, their prescence in and around town centres such as Lincoln and Hull grate on my nerves like finger nails on a chalkboard. Many years ago, a girl I knew and would have married had I been old enough and the feeling reciprocated, had the misfortune to take a direct hit in her mass of blonde hair from a pigeon one saturday afternoon in the middle of a busy shopping centre. The memory of that lingered long after and I always approach them with a sense of trepidation.

Pigeon fancying is lost on me, each to their own and all of that but who wants a hobby which involves scraping pigeon droppings from a shed floor and then demand its reinstatement as an official sport? Cleaning a wooden khazi full of birds isn’t a sport, I’ve watched them do it and it’s hardly ski jumping or the super bowl. 

pigeon

A roast pigeon is another matter however, plucked and cooked rare-medium and my hatred wains. They used to be quite popular in years gone by, a pigeon pie was (and still is) a fine meal indeed, in large part because of the excellent gravy it makes.

I often cook them, usually as a starter with a risotto, maybe a lentil dal with some Indian flavours, certainly with seasonal mushrooms or sometimes whole as a main course.

Roasting a pigeon is easy enough, take a dressed bird and stick a sprig of thyme, a clove of garlic (unpeeled) and a couple of juniper berries up its cavity and rub the whole thing with butter or goose fat. Crank your oven up high then ’seal’ the pigeon breast side down in a hot pan of oil and butter, flip it over and spoon some of the fat over the carcasse and then turn it over again so it’s breast side down.

Roast the pigeon for between ten and thirteen minutes depending on your preference although a well done pigeon is as appetising as a live one. Rest it for a few minutes breast side down and serve it with some braised cabbage or a creamy puree of celeriac, parsnip, potato or butternut. Here’s one I prepared earlier with braised salsify, nettle tagliatelle, roast shallots and wild fennel…

Roast Pigeon

21 Comments

  1. Cid says:

    Miles,

    Walter pigeon lives in my garden, 20ft up in the canopy. The drive doesn’t escape but his real goal is my car windows, never misses. The local cats do a reasonable job of catching them but there’s always at least one huge pigeon in that tree, lurking with intent. It’s a wonder we don’t see pigeon pie in butcher shops everywhere.

    Your dishes sound delicious. If ever you feel inclined, Walter is the size of an albatros, you can’t miss him :)

    Cid

    January 22, 2008 @ 11:35 am

  2. Miles says:

    Cid,
    Walter sounds like a bloody nuisance :)
    Just remember what I said about ladies hair!
    Miles

    January 22, 2008 @ 4:05 pm

  3. Elsie Nean says:

    Miles,
    I take it that the pigeon would be a corn fed one :)
    I wouldn’t have had you down for a pigeon fancier - a bird of another sort I would have thought :)

    Elsie

    January 22, 2008 @ 5:13 pm

  4. miles says:

    Elsie,
    They are fed on what ever I put out for the other birds. No I am not a pigeon fancier, give me any other hobby but that.
    Miles

    January 22, 2008 @ 7:28 pm

  5. Cid says:

    Miles,

    I don’t actually feed Walt… he eats cats and reptiles and any slow moving postmen :)

    Cid

    January 22, 2008 @ 10:04 pm

  6. miles says:

    Cid,
    Sounds more like an albatross! As for slow moving postmen, no fear of going hungry there! :mrgreen:

    Miles

    January 22, 2008 @ 10:27 pm

  7. Cid says:

    Miles,

    I have long since suspected that he dines in Branston and merely stops off here for recreation before heading out to sea for a light snack of tuna :)

    Cid

    January 22, 2008 @ 10:41 pm

  8. Hank says:

    Just shot a few pigeons the other day. Farmer friend of mine has them in his barn, so they eat seeds and hay rather than the nasty ick city pigeons eat.

    Your roast recipe looks fun.

    January 29, 2008 @ 8:34 pm

  9. miles says:

    Hank,
    I know a few good city centres in these parts that would offer you a good day’s sport!

    Miles

    January 29, 2008 @ 9:35 pm

  10. Hong says:

    I wonder where I can buy the pigeons. Thanks for any kind of information. I live in Winchester, Virginia, USA.

    June 30, 2010 @ 6:00 pm

  11. miles says:

    Hong,
    Welcome to the site, glad you stopped by. I’m afraid I can’t help you as I live in England but perhaps some of our American friends who read this might be able to offer some advice?

    Good luck with your search.
    Kind regards
    Miles

    June 30, 2010 @ 6:25 pm

  12. Samantha says:

    Could you post the recipe for the nettle tagliatelle? That sounds very appealing to me as a fan of nettle soup, I’ve never tried cooking nettles in anything other than soups or as a steamed veg before though.
    Thanks,
    Samantha

    February 20, 2011 @ 3:26 pm

  13. miles says:

    Samantha,
    Welcome to the site. As good as nettle soup is there are other ways of using them. First of all give them a good wash in cold, salted water and then blanch very briefly in boiling salted water (some blanch and refresh twice) before plunging into ice cold water to preserve the colour.
    You can then chop it very finely or place in a blender with a touch of olive oil and blend to a smooth paste. This can be added to a basic pasta dough and worked in or if you don’t want to make your own simply stir the paste through your cooked pasta. You can use like pesto really, once it’s been blanched it’s fine to use.

    Kind regards
    Miles

    February 20, 2011 @ 6:30 pm

  14. Amber says:

    I’ve got quite a problem with pigeons roosting on my balcony each spring. A couple years ago I even found one wandering around my kitchen. It had hopped in through an open window. Catching and cooking the wee beastie was far from my thoughts, however.

    Has anyone else noticed a hierarchy amongst pigeons? For example, it sounds like Walt would probably be a bit more posh, and certainly more clever, then you have general city-dwellers, and at the bottom of the list are the foul, manky, one-legged variety that always seem to end up at train stations. I’m just curious. :)

    April 6, 2011 @ 6:15 pm

  15. miles says:

    Amber,
    Welcome to the site, my sympathy is extended to you for those roosting on your balcony. At least now you have a recipe!! Not thought about a pigeon hierachy before, good point. That said I treat them all with equal disdain :)

    Kind rgards
    Miles

    April 6, 2011 @ 11:14 pm

  16. Jeff says:

    Always Thought about eating a pigeon. Thank you for your recipe I will have to try it. I must admit I do like rabbit stew. And you are right they are rats of the air.

    August 1, 2011 @ 9:29 am

  17. miles says:

    Jeff,
    Welcome to the site, rats they are indeed! Hope you like it.
    Kind regards
    Miles

    August 2, 2011 @ 8:29 pm

  18. robenk says:

    There do seem to be a small group of Walter sized pigeons lording it over my neighbourhood. I usually see them sitting idly on a branch, or an antenna, seemingly looking back with contempt and malice….one eye at a time! :P

    A great way to start dealing with them is eating them, especially the bigger ones which are supposedly healthier and more flavoursome than the skinny ones walking around dejectedly at train and tube stations….as if waiting for some long lost love who will never return….

    I mean living such a stressful and depressing life can only harm their natural flavours!

    But anyway, your recipe would indeed produce a fine meal. And this little page is rather an amusing read :D . So thank you for putting this together, and greetings to all!

    October 14, 2011 @ 12:50 pm

  19. miles says:

    Robenk,
    Welcome to the site, eating them is a good way of keeping their numbers down, I wish more people would eat them.
    I’ll have to start putting more pigeon recipes on here!
    Thanks Robenk,
    Kind regards
    Miles

    October 15, 2011 @ 11:26 am

  20. doug says:

    Please please tell me you are not eating FERAL pigeons???!!! They are without doubt the dirtiest most disease ridden bird in the entire animal kingdom.

    When pigeons are mentioned in recipes its Wood pigeons that are being used.

    April 14, 2012 @ 11:34 am

  21. miles says:

    Doug,
    Welcome to the site, don’t worry about that, wood pigeons only!!
    Kind regards
    Miles

    April 14, 2012 @ 2:03 pm

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