Game season draws to a close fairly soon, as does my adventure in game meat. Not content with just a saddle of roe deer, pheasant stuffed with haggis, partridge or rack of fatty mutton, I threw a couple of wood pigeons into my Blackface meat box for good measure. I can tell you – after this, I am done with game. At least until next year!
Wood pigeon is a fairly skinny bird, and when people cook it they tend to remove the breasts and discard the carcass. I’m not the type to waste anything, so I sought out a recipe for whole pigeon. I found a fairly low maintenance recipe by Nigel Slater here, and went with the juniper berry dressing. I’ve never used juniper berries before, but they form the basis of gin, so I’m an instant fan..
Dressing the pigeons was very easy, but it was messy. Opening the pack, I was not ready for the pools of blood that came pouring out – a bit surprising considering they were described as ‘oven ready’. Maybe the blood is meant to be there? Then I attempted to butterfly the pigeons – very badly. There’s not really a way of cutting a delicate bird in half down its spine with a cleaver; there was a lot of splatter, to say the least! Finally, once that was done, I rubbed the pigeon halves with salt, pepper, olive oil, garlic cloves and crushed juniper berries (I used 12 overall) and left it for a few hours.
When it came to cooking, I put the the pigeon halves on a griddle pan over low-medium heat, turning every so often to get both sides done. I got impatient, and finished them off under a hot oven grill for about 10 minutes. The birds came out a lovely medium rare, which is probably the right way to eat it. I served with a simple salad, and followed with a secondi of mushroom risotto.
Wood pigeon is a lovely game meat. For me, it bore more resemblance to venison than pheasant or partridge. There’s also no delicate way to eat it off the bone – you do end up picking it up with fingers to gnaw. One thing that did put me off slightly was finding the odd bit of lead shot in the meat. It means you end up constantly worrying over your meal – especially if you have an already broken tooth, like me.
All in all, wood pigeon is good value (it was £3.40 per bird), low in fat and very nutritious. And with that, we close the lid on the Blackface Meat Company meat box!