Corn-fed Pigeon with Vegetables and Olive Oil Sauce

These pigeons, which are frequently sold under their American name ‘squab’, are reared specifically for the table. They handle differently from wood pigeons and are reliably tender, even the legs.

You will need a blender for the sauce. Stock-based sauces or dressings, like this one, will not incorporate enough olive oil to influence the flavour without some centrifugal force.

Ingredients

  • 4 corn-fed pigeons
  • 2 lb (900 g) young carrots
  • 4 small leeks
  • 4 asparagus spears
  • 8 oz (225 g) mange-touts
  • 1 lb (450 g) spinach, washed, tough stalks removed
  • olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Sauce

  • 10 fl oz (300 ml) chicken stock
  • 1 shallot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons double cream
  • 5 fl oz (150 ml) virgin olive oil

Method

The vegetables

This recipe is for early summer. At other times of year use different vegetables. If the carrots or leeks are woody, substitute whatever is in peak condition, perhaps salsify or French beans.

  • Wash the vegetables, trimming and peeling where necessary. If the carrots are large, cut them into 1 in (2.5 cm) lengths, likewise the leeks and asparagus.
  • Bring the sauce stock to the boil, and poach the vegetables. Add them in the order of how long they take to cook -carrots first, then asparagus, leeks and mange-touts. Lift out these vegetables and then separately boil the spinach for 1 minute. Lift this out to drain well. Reserve the poaching stock.

The pigeons and sauce

  • Brush a little olive oil on to the pigeons. Season with salt and pepper. Roast them in a hot oven 400°F (200°C) Gas 6 – for about 20 minutes.

    They will be cooked pink, which is how I like them. If you prefer pigeon well done leave them in the oven for another 15 minutes.

  • Deglaze the roasting pan with the poaching stock from the vegetables. Add the shallot, garlic and then the cream. Pour this into a liquidiser and blend. As it blends, slowly pour in the olive oil.

To Complete

  • Place a little spinach on each of four warmed plates. Make a small pile of vegetables on top. Carve the pigeon into two breasts and two legs each. Place these on the mounds of vegetables and pour round the warm olive oil sauce.
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