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Fort on Pigeon...
There is a world of difference between the suave velvet-and-suede texture of a farmed squab (young pigeon) pigeon, which is usually the one you’ll find on restaurant menus, and the taut muscularity of the wild bird. The differences in flavour are equally marked. Squabs have a mild, civilised, almost cultured gentleness. Wild is much more minerally and hard edged. It’s not hard to see why. Your wild bird leads a very active life, feeding as he may. Connoisseurs prefer the autumn birds, which have grown fat on beach mast, autumn veg and berries. Even so, they take a bit of cooking as that chest meat is pure, working muscle. That’s why most people braise them.
Squabs, on the other hand, are fed to put on weight as rapidly as possible, and are killed at around a month. Not much of a life, really. In the wild, pigeons will generally live for 3-4 years, but can live for up to 15. And then there’s the difference in weight: industrially raised squabs weigh 1.3 pounds (0.59 kg) when of age, as opposed to traditionally raised pigeons, which weigh 0.5 pounds (0.23 kg). There’s nothing new about pigeon farming. The ancient Egyptians were at it, and raising ducks and geese, too, for foie gras, for that matter.
Article written by Matthew Fort
What Pigeon Goes With
Pigeon has been revived by chefs over the last few years and its gamey taste makes it ideal for serving with earthier ingredients. Pair with the likes of mushrooms, butter beans, cobnuts to make use of this combination.
In the same way that orange is a natural foil for duck, cherries can perform a similar role with pigeon; its sweetness offering a great counterpoint to the bird’s rich flavour. Most sweet flavours will work well with pigeon; Mark Dodson serves his breast of pigeon with a blueberry jus.
If you really want to impress, use this Chris Horridge wild pigeon recipe as inspiration, in which pigeon is cured in birch sap wine.
From the Land
View our wonderful collection of festive recipes, complete with a prawn cocktail recipe from Chris Horridge, white chocolate fudge from Phil Carnegie and delicious mint bon-bons from Marcus Wareing.