Crispy Squabs with Coriander Spiced Salt

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen

By Paula Wolfert

Published 2003

  • About

For me, this recipe is magical. Squabs, or baby pigeons, poached in a spiced broth, come out velvety in texture, juicy, and flavorful. They are then dried and fried until the skin turns golden and crisp, contrasting with the pink, juicy, interior flesh. Squab flesh should always be served red. If you prefer it medium, simmer a little longer, but please be careful not to overcook.

This dish was inspired by one in Australian chef Greg Malouf's book Moorish, and the chef's touch of rubbing a coriander-based salt into the birds just before the last minute of frying is brilliant. In my adaptation, I poach the squab in an aromatic liquid using typical Egyptian seasonings: cinnamon, cardamom, mastic, and saffron.

Prepare Steps 1 through 3 a day in advance. You will need two thermometers—one for the poaching liquid, the other to monitor the cooking of the flesh.


  • 2 squabs (about 1 pound each)
  • Coriander Spiced Salt
  • 5 cardamom pods, bruised
  • 2 pinches of saffron threads
  • 1 cinnamon stick, 2 inches long
  • ½ teaspoon crushed black peppercorns
  • 1 dried hot red chile pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon mastic (see Mail Order Sources)
  • cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • Dash of fruit or wine vinegar


  1. Rinse the squabs; cut off the wing tips, neck bones, and excess fat and reserve for the poaching liquid. Rub the birds dry with paper towels.
  2. Place 1 tablespoon of the coriander spiced salt in a large bowl, add the birds, seal, and shake up and down so they are completely coated with the prepared salt. Refrigerate, covered, for 24 hours.
  3. Meanwhile, tie the cardamom, saffron, cinnamon, peppercorns, chile pepper, and mastic in a cheesecloth bag. Slowly brown the squab bones and the trimmings in a saucepan in 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook, stirring, until golden. Moisten with orange juice. Add the spice packet to the pan along with the honey, vinegar, and 1½ quarts water. Bring to a boil. Skim and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Strain, cover, and refrigerate. Discard the spice packet, wing tips, necks, and aromatics.
  4. The following day, bring the squab and liquid to room temperature. Place the birds in a pot, cover with the cold liquid, and slowly heat almost to a strong simmer, 15 minutes. Meanwhile, monitor the internal flesh at the thigh, and when it reaches 125°F, remove from the heat. Partially cover and allow the birds to cool in the liquid for 15 minutes. Lift out the birds and leave to drain on a V-shaped rack set over a plate for 10 minutes. Bring the liquid to a boil, simmer for 5 minutes, strain, and set aside to cool. Freeze to use again.
  5. Meanwhile, set a wok or wide skillet over medium heat. Add the oil and when hot, dust the birds with 2 teaspoons of the remaining coriander salt and fry, turning them on all sides until beautifully browned all over. Drain on a rack. Serve at once with the remaining salt as a condiment on the side.

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