Pigeon de Bresse baked in a salt pastry crust

  • medium
  • 2
  • 1 hour 30 minutes

Impressive, playful and delicious all at the same time, this jovial little pigeon is baked in a salt crust, to be carved at the table. Served with a rich sauce and simple wild mushroom fricassée, this dish is for when you want to impress (and give your pastry shaping techniques a workout!). In season from late summer to the end of autumn.

'This dish is a thirty-year-old classic at Le Manoir; it is still a great favourite today. It has technique, beauty, deliciousness and the old lost skills of the dining room. It took me months to perfect the recipe, and for a few seconds I felt truly proud. Let me explain why.

First, the dish is hugely dramatic; it is a sculpture of a squab wrapped in its salt crust. But do not be mistaken, the aim was certainly not merely to create something beautiful. The salt crust has a very specific role to play. First, it seasons the squab while cooking. Then, it wraps it completely to seal in all its flavours. Even more importantly, it is not an aggressive heat as it would be if it were roasted directly in the oven. Because it is completely sealed, the heat takes time to build up inside and slowly permeates the squab, creating a melting tenderness and also a richer, deeper flavour. I would never place taste after aesthetics; my cuisine has always been inspired by taste and flavours, yet I try also to make my dishes visually exciting and appetising.'

Follow Raymond on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Recipe © Raymond Blanc.

First published in 2020





  • 2 squab pigeons, , cleaned and oven-ready, with the wings, neck, heart and liver removed and reserved (ask your butcher)
  • 1 tbsp of grapeseed oil

Salt crust


Wrapping the squabs

Wild mushroom fricassée


  • Stand mixer


Make 2 small holes high up on the sides of each squab, then slip the tips of the legs inside – this will prevent the legs from opening during cooking and piercing the pastry crust. Sear the squabs in the oil for 7 minutes on each thigh and 1 minute on each breast. Do not season at this point, as the salt crust will do this for you. Leave to cool completely
  • 2 squab pigeons, , cleaned and oven-ready, with the wings, neck, heart and liver removed and reserved (ask your butcher)
  • 1 tbsp of grapeseed oil
While the squabs cool, combine the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Mix on slow speed for 2 minutes, then add the egg whites and increase to medium speed. Slowly add the water until the pastry just holds together, then shape into a ball and flatten into a 2cm disc
To make the sauce, place a medium saucepan over a medium heat. Add the duck fat and sear the reserved necks and wings for 3-4 minutes until lightly coloured, then add the shallots and mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes. Add the madeira, cook for 1 minute, then add the port and cook for a further 2 minutes. Pour in the brown chicken stock and cream, then simmer for 10 minutes, skimming occasionally. Chop up the reserved hearts and liver, then add during the last minute of simmering. Strain through a fine conical sieve, pressing the solids with a spoon to extract as much flavour as possible. Taste, season and reserve
To wrap the squabs, divide the pastry in half and flatten into circles roughly 3cm thick. Roll out one half of the dough between 2 sheets of baking paper until 5mm thick, then cut out a circle 28cm in diameter and set aside
Gather all the trimmings and roll out to 5mm thick, then cut out an oval shape around 10cm in length for the wings. Cut the oval in half to create 2 wings, then use a small knife to finish create a wing shape. Brush the wings with egg wash and score lines into them to finish the decoration
For the head, gather 50g of pastry from the remaining trimmings. Roll into a tight, perfect ball. Using your index finger, press and roll one-third of the way down the ball to create a neck and head. Use your fingers to flatten the base of the neck so it can easily be stuck to the main body. Pinch the middle of the head to create the beak
Repeat the above 3 processes with the second half of the dough for the other squab
In the centre of each 28cm circle of dough, lay a squab, breast down, with the neck end facing away from you. Lightly brush the edge of the circle with egg wash, then fold the two sides of the dough over the squab so they overlap. Press and seal
Turn the squab away from you and tuck the dough underneath to create a firm base. There must be no holes in the pastry, so ensure the squab is completely wrapped. Flatten the overlapping dough into the bird’s tail. Repeat this with the second squab, then place both on a baking tray lined with baking paper
Lightly egg wash the insides of the wings and press them against the sides of the squabs, then egg wash the heads and press firmly into place. Use your fingers to smooth the joints so they are seamless. Use the remaining egg wash to brush the squabs all over, then push 2 cloves into each head to create the eyes. Sprinkle rock salt under the base of each squab, then place in the fridge until ready to cook (note the squabs can only sit in the fridge for up to 6 hours before the pastry starts to get soggy)
To cook the squabs, preheat an oven to 240°C/gas mark 9. Bake the squabs (straight from the fridge) for 20 minutes for medium-rare, or 22 minutes for medium. Once cooked, leave to rest for 12 minutes
While the squabs rest, prepare the wild mushrooms. Halve any larger mushrooms and then plunge all of them into water, swirling, for 10 seconds. Pat dry and set aside. Combine the rest of the ingredients (except the butter) and chop through to mix well. Gently start reheating the sauce in preparation for bringing it to the table
Place a medium frying pan over a high heat and add the butter. Once foaming, add the mushrooms, season and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice and herb mix and toss in the pan for 10 seconds. Taste and adjust for seasoning, then transfer to a serving dish
You are now ready to serve. Pour the reheated sauce into a serving jug, and brush the squabs with melted butter for a final gloss. Bring everything to the table
To carve the squabs at the table, slice off the head with panache, then use a spoon to slice open the crust, following the wings. Free the squab by lifting it out with a fork, discarding the crusts (as they are inedible). Slice off the legs at the joint, then slice off the breasts by sliding the blade against the carcass (reserve the carcasses if possible as they will make an excellent sauce). Divide between your enamoured guests and enjoy
First published in 2020

A legend amongst legends, Raymond Blanc's impact on the UK's food scene over the past three decades is unmatched.

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