Sunday, May 24, 2009

Quick roast pigeon

Serves 2

I had some of the best pigeon ever just before leaving Hong Kong - a discovery too little, too late - and just to emphasise how good it was, I went twice in two weeks, now with the strength and variety of the local food scene there, that is a rarity, and believe me I'd make it a weekly pilgrimage if I could. I also had some roast pigeon in Cairo last week which sadly failed to hit the mark, but was worth trying all the same... Here's a quick pigeon dish so easy to cook at home, and with most major food stores selling pigeon now, try getting birds that are young - then they can be very good - piquant and succulent, particularly if you pick the legs up to eat them. Disaster stories with pigeons can be off-putting, most of these involve slow cooking. I now prefer to flash-roast the birds, cut into portions, in a very hot oven.

2 wood pigeon, oven prepared
1 wineglass of red wine
2 tblsp olive or nut oil
thyme, a couple of sprigs
1 bay leaf
1 small clove of garlic, crushed
1 tsp black peppercorns, roughly crushed
2 tsp balsamic vinegar

Cut each of the pigeons into 4 pieces, 2 breasts and 2 small legs. Put the pieces into a flameproof glass, stainless steel or china dish with the wine, oil, herbs, garlic and peppercorns.

Set aside for as long as you can - an hour will just suffice, though overnight would be better. If the worst comes to the worst, 15 minutes will do.

Heat the oven to 240C/475F (gas mark 9). Place the breasts on the top shelf of the hot oven and cook for five minutes, six if the breasts are large. Add the legs and the marinade and cook all for a further 6 minutes or until the birds are cooked to your liking.

Remove the birds to a warm plate to rest, - the switched-off oven will do - put the roasting pan over the heat and get the cooking juices really hot; stir in the balsamic vinegar, taste for seasoning and add a little salt and pepper if you wish.

Serve the roast meat, generously sprinkled with coarse salt, the pan juices and lots of bread. Cabbage, stir-fried with a little soy, would be a wholesome addition, or pan-fried mushrooms.

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