Warm Pigeon and Lentil Salad

Use small blue-green Puy lentils if you can get them. The stock can be made and the lentils cooked the day before required.

Ingredients

  • 4 wood pigeons
  • ¼ pt / 140 ml good red wine
  • 1 onion, peeled and sliced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced
  • 1 celery stalk, trimmed and finely sliced
  • few parsley stalks
  • 6 oz / 170-g green lentils
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • green salad leaves
  • herbs - torn sage leaves, to garnish (optional)

Method

Remove the breasts from the wood pigeons, put them in a bowl, pour over the red wine and leave to marinate while you prepare some pigeon stock. Chop the rest of the pigeon carcasses into pieces and fry in a little oil in a heavy frying pan until well browned all over. Put the pieces in a saucepan. Fry the onion, carrot and celery until beginning to brown, and add to the pigeon pieces in the saucepan with the parsley stalks. Cover with cold water, bring slowly to the boil, skim the surface and simmer, uncovered, for about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, rinse the lentils, removing any stones, drain and tip into a clean saucepan. Once the stock has a good flavour, strain it over the lentils, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about half an hour or until the lentils are tender. Drain the lentils, reserving the stock. Mix the lentils while still warm with the olive oil, orange juice, garlic and seasoning.

Remove the pigeon breasts from the marinade and dry them thoroughly. Heat a non-stick or well-seasoned frying pan, and fry the pigeon breasts for 3 minutes on one side, 2 minutes on the other. Remove from the pan and leave to rest for 5 minutes or so. Arrange the salad leaves on individual dinner plates and heap the lentils in the centre. Slice the pigeon breasts and arrange around the lentils.

Variations

Serve the lentils and pigeon hot, without salad leaves but with a hot potato, garlic purée and a couple of spoonfuls of reduced pigeon stock.

Lentils and pork also make a good combination. Cook the lentils in water or any stock you may have, and, while still warm, stir in 4 tablespoons olive oil. While the lentils are cooking, dice 6oz / 170g belly pork, fry until well browned, then pour off the fat and mix in a little dark muscovado sugar, Dijon mustard and red wine vinegar. Leave to stand for 30 minutes, season, and mix with the warm lentils.

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