The beginning of September marks the start of the wood pigeon season, when these plump birds become widely available at game dealers, farmers' markets and even some supermarkets. After a summer of feasting on corn and other cereal crops, the birds should have a sweet, nutty flavour that makes it perfect for autumn eating.
When buying wood pigeon, look for meat that is deep-coloured and relatively clear of damage from shot.
Young birds are the best for roasting to ensure tender meat, which is dark, very rich and gamey. Alternatively, pan-fry the breasts until they are golden-brown but still slightly pink in the middle and serve with garlicky mashed potato. Tender slices of pan-fried wood pigeon also go well with bitter salad leaves or chicory.
Older birds get tougher with age and are best braised slowly with vegetables, or used for stock. The richness of the flesh is complemented by other strong flavours, such as gin, brandy and port, and by dried fruit, such as prunes, and it's good served with braised red cabbage, lentils or cabbage and bacon. You can also try marinating wood pigeon with robust spices and herbs, such as thyme, bay leaf or parsley, along with a fruity red wine to add extra tenderness.
Article by Louisa Carter