Wood Pigeon with Spätzle, Chestnuts and Pomegranate

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Spätzle or spaetzle, meaning ‘little sparrows’, consists of tiny noodles or dumplings, and is a common accompaniment in Germany and Alsace, especially for dishes with lots of gravy. The basic dough can be rolled and cut like pasta or gnocchi, but is more commonly forced through a colander as here. There are purpose-made devices that work like potato ricers, but this method gives results that are just as good.

Ingredients

  • 4 wood pigeons, wishbones removed
  • Good Splash of olive oil
  • 110 g butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Sprig of thyme
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled, diced and cooked
  • 60 g cooked chestnuts
  • Seeds from 1 pomegranate
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley

For the Spätzle

  • 30 g warm melted butter
  • 2 whole eggs plus 1 extra egg yolk
  • 250 g plain flour, sifted
  • 120 ml full-fat milk
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • freshly grated nutmeg

Method

First make the spätzle: in a large mixing bowl, mix the butter with the eggs, then add the sifted flour. Pour in the milk gradually and beat well for about 5 minutes. Finish with salt, pepper and 2 gratings of nutmeg (this is all ideally done in a mixer with the paddle attachment). The consistency will be like that of a loose dough. Leave to rest for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas 5.

Bring a pan of salted water to a simmer. Add small amounts of the spätzle mix to a wide-holed colander and, using a plastic scraper, force the mix through into the simmering water. You are aiming for small dumpling/gnocchi-type pieces. Cook for 1 minute, drain and set aside.

In a heavy-based ovenproof pan, brown the wood pigeons in the oil and 50 g butter. Season well, add the garlic and thyme, and roast in the preheated oven for about 7 minutes. Ideally, leave them pink and juicy. Remove from the oven and leave to rest in the pan.

Melt half the remaining butter in a heavy frying pan, add the spätzle and lightly colour over a high heat. Season, then take out and set aside. Add the rest of the butter and the shallots to the pan and cook until the shallots are softened. Add the carrots and chestnuts, then return the spätzle to the pan and warm everything through. Finally add the pomegranate seeds, parsley and a spoonful of juice from the pigeon pan. Adjust the seasoning.

To serve, carve the pigeons in half, leaving the legs attached. Spoon the remaining pan juices over each bird and add the spätzle, carrot, chestnut and pomegranate mixture.

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