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It might look a bit posher than your average beans on toast, but this dish is still quick to prepare and celebrates the best that the season has to offer, writes Laura Paton
The French have a saying: “The pigeons eat the peas, and we eat the peas and the pigeons.” This dish, perfect as a lunch for two or a starter for many, takes the classic French combination of pigeons and peas, adds a good glug of Italy and a sprinkle of England.
One of our most versatile, plentiful and sustainable game meats, pigeon is usually accompanied by autumnal flavours, but works just as well with fresh, summery ingredients, like peas, as the sweetness complements the savoury tang of the pigeon.
To ensure pigeon perfection, don’t overcook it. The breast should be rose-pink in the middle, so will only need a few minutes on each side.
If you are able to use fresh peas and beans for the purée, then make the most of them while you can. A purée is a great way to use up the larger, older legumes that have been left behind after you have eaten the sweetest ones straight from the pod, or lightly boiled them – if you possess more restraint than I do. If you are unable to get hold of fresh peas and beans, then frozen, as I have used here, are just fine.
You don’t have to double-pod broad beans, especially if they are very young, but your purée will look more vibrant if you do. And, although time-consuming, double-podding allows the ‘podder’ an excuse for a few minutes’ guilt-free contemplation, as they fall into a happy, easy rhythm – so I would highly recommend it!
You could make the purée in advance, and either serve it hot as an accompaniment to meat or fish, adding different herbs to suit, or serve it at room temperature, as I am doing here, on little toasts or as a dip.
Crostini topped with pan-fried pigeon breast and a pea and broad bean purÉe
Serves 2 as a lunch, with plenty of purée left over
Preparation and cooking time: 20 minutes
For the crostini:
? ½ x ciabatta loaf, cut into 1cm thick slices
? 1 x garlic clove, peeled and cut in half
? extra virgin olive oil
For the purÉe:
? 150g frozen or freshly podded peas
? 150g frozen or freshly podded broad beans
? 1 x small handful mint leaves
? 40g butter
? salt and freshly ground pepper
? ½ lemon, juice only
For the pigeon:
? olive oil
? 4 x pigeon breasts, skin on
? Pea shoots
1. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the peas and beans and simmer until tender.
2. Grill the ciabatta slices until lightly toasted on both sides.
3. While they are still hot, rub the cut side of the garlic clove onto the crostini, then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and keep warm.
4. Once tender, drain the peas and beans, reserving some of the water.
5. Place the peas and beans in a food processor with the mint and butter and pulse until you have the desired texture (I have left the purée quite coarse here). If needed, add some of the reserved cooking water to loosen. Add salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Taste; add more of each as required to balance the flavours. Leave to cool to room temperature.
6. Heat some olive oil and a knob of butter in a heavy-based pan.
7. Season both sides of the pigeon breasts.
8. Once the pan is hot, add the pigeon breasts, skin side down. Cook on a medium to high heat for 2-4 minutes on each side (depending on the thickness of the breast), basting continuously with the hot oil and butter.
9. Remove from the pan and allow to rest for approximately five minutes.
10. Carve each pigeon breast into three or four pieces. Spread the purée over the crostini, arrange the pigeon on top and garnish with pea shoots.
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