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Tim Maddam’s pigeon, leek and lentil dish is quick, delicious, healthy and frugal... give it a go!
For a healthy, quick meal that makes the most of seasonal ingredients, you can’t go wrong with my pigeon, leek and lentil dish.
I have said it before, but I will say it again – pigeon is simply one of the best meats on the planet. That, coupled with its year-round availability and rock-solid ethical status, is what makes it my favourite bird to shoot and eat. Now is the perfect time for a spot of pigeon roost shooting too, and not only because the trees are bare of leaves but also, I think, because after the busy driven game season, your shooting skills are in tip-top condition to tackle these fast, often high and challenging birds.
The birds at this time of year are either stuffing themselves with clover and rape, or are hard on the ivy berries; both of these do affect the flavour of the breast meat so it’s a good idea to open the crops before cooling the birds.
The recipe I have used here is one of simplicity. It’s fairly healthy and frugal, in keeping with the season, so it won’t challenge you too much in the kitchen – something I think is important when you have spent so much time getting hold of the pigeon in the first place. Yes, there are lentils and yes, there are leeks and no, there are no chips to go with it, but I think you will find the flavours of the pigeon go nicely with these earthy seasonal ingredients and somehow make the whole thing just seem right.
The addition of a sprinkling of toasted spices may seem a little odd, but trust me, they make all the difference.
Pigeon with slow-cooked leek and lentils
? 4 pigeon breasts
? 1 large leek
? 25ml good olive or rapeseed oil
? 2 cloves
? 1 tbsp cider vinegar
? 1 cup of water
? a good knob of butter
? 2 fresh bay leaves
? 100g cooked lentils
? 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
? small sprig of rosemary, finely chopped
? 1 tsp cumin seeds
? 1 tsp coriander seeds
? 1 tsp caraway seeds
? a few chilli flakes
? a little paprika
? a sprig of fresh parsley, finely chopped
1. Remove the pigeon breasts from the fridge, rub them with a little oil and season with salt and pepper.
2. Cut the leek in half lengthways and wash well under running hot water to remove any grit and soil.
3. In a large saucepan with a well-fitting lid, warm the olive or rapeseed oil.
4. Add the cloves, cider vinegar, water and leek and cover. Bring up to a simmer then turn right down and leave the leek to cook gently – it’s ready once it’s falling apart.
5. Remove the cloves and discard. Season with salt and pepper and blend half of the leek and some of the liquid in a blender to make a smooth soup-like puree.
6. In a hot frying pan, cook the pigeon breasts with a little butter and the fresh bay leaves. Don’t be tempted to faff around with them too much, just let them cook. They will need around 2 minutes on each side – you want them to still feel firm. Place them on a warm plate to rest and turn down the heat.
7. Using the same pan, warm the lentils through and then add the finely chopped garlic. Season well and add the rosemary. Leave on a low heat until you are ready to serve.
8. In a small, dry saucepan, toast the seeds and chilli flakes until they become aromatic, then place to one side but close to hand.
9. Pour any resting juices from the pigeon into the lentils and then carve the pigeon.
10. Now you’re ready to assemble the dish. Start by splitting the puree between two plates, then add the lentils and sit the pigeon on top. Now place some of the slow-cooked leek on the side and sprinkle over the toasted spices, paprika and parsley. Enjoy.
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