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Impress your friends and family with this pigeon dish that’s easy to prepare but packs an aromatic punch, writes Rebecca Green
Pigeon is one of my favourite gamebirds to eat. We normally just breast them, pan fry and serve with potatoes and veg and a dollop of mustard. Sometimes, if we’re feeling decadent there might be a whisky cream sauce too, made in the pan the pigeon was fried in, while it is resting. Whack the heat up high, chuck in a good splash of whisky (if you’re cooking on gas, you can even get it to flame), let that bubble away for a moment then add a ladleful of good chicken stock, reduce it down and then pour in some cream – not too much – and taste for seasoning. Simples!
But for something a bit more ‘exotic’ this pigeon tagine is a real winner. It’s a great one for a quick family dinner too, as you don’t have to spend hours at the cooker.
For ease of eating, I prefer to take the breasts and legs off the carcass. If you’re just using the breasts then reduce the cooking time by about 10 minutes. This recipe serves four but also freezes well. I rarely cook just enough for two – much better to have leftovers for lunch the next day. It also works really well with partridge.
? 4 pigeons, breasts and legs removed
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? plain flour
? 2 large red onions, thinly sliced
? 3 cloves garlic, sliced
? olive oil – a good glug
? 1 tsp saffron
? 1 tsp ground ginger
? 1-2 inch piece fresh ginger, sliced
? 2 tsp ground cumin (or seeds, crushed)
? 1 tsp paprika
? 1 cinnamon stick
? 1 tsp crushed black peppercorns
? 6 small preserved lemons (or 4 if they are large)
? 100g mixed olives
? 500ml good chicken stock
? good handful of fresh coriander and parsley, chopped
? salt and pepper to taste
For the couscous
? 400g couscous (I like the wholewheat or barley variety)
? seeds from one pomegranate
? handful of pistachio nuts
? handful of mixed fresh herbs –
mint, parsley and coriander
? 1 tbsp rose harissa paste
? drizzle of olive oil
? salt and pepper to taste
? 1 cucumber, sliced diagonally
? fresh mint to scatter
? olive oil to drizzle
1. Prepare the pigeon meat and toss in seasoned flour.
2. In a large casserole dish, brown the pigeon pieces in some olive oil over a medium/high heat. Set aside.
3. Finely slice the onions, garlic and fresh ginger. Put the saffron in a small bowl and cover with a splash of boiling water. Set aside.
4. In the same casserole dish gently fry the onions over a low heat in some olive oil until soft.
5. Add the fresh ginger and garlic and continue to cook over a low/medium heat for 1-2 minutes.
6. Add the other spices – ground ginger, cumin, paprika, peppercorns and cinnamon – and stir well. Continue to fry for a minute or so, until the aromas are released.
7. Add the quartered lemons, saffron (with its water) and the chicken stock.
8. Return the pigeon pieces to the pan and bring to the boil.
9. Reduce the heat, cover and cook on a gentle heat for an hour or so, until the meat is soft and falling off the bone.
10. Add the olives to the pan and cook for a further
11. Meanwhile, slice a cucumber diagonally, arrange on a plate and scatter with fresh chopped mint and a drizzle of olive oil. This makes a refreshing accompaniment to the rich, fragrant tagine.
11. Check tagine for seasoning. Scatter over the chopped fresh herbs. Serve and woo!