Small game birds like pigeon are best cooked very quickly or very slowly. This recipes does both, with tons of flavour from mushrooms and Parma ham.
4 x pigeons, jointed into breasts, legs and wings, carcasses and livers reserved
4 x pigeon carcasses, chopped into pieces (from above)
5 x chicken wings
500ml/18fl oz red wine
3 carrots, roughly chopped
3 celery sticks, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
2-3 whole garlic cloves
10g juniper berries
few sprigs thyme
500ml/18fl oz brown chicken stock
knob of butter
1 tsp 10-year-old balsamic vinegar
4 x pigeon breasts, skin removed (from above)
unsalted butter, for frying
150g/5½oz baby spinach
2 sprigs thyme
2 garlic cloves
100g/3½oz porcini mushrooms
1 tbsp English mustard
8 slices freshly shaved black truffle
4 slices Parma ham
2 sheets filo pastry
1 free-range egg, beaten
rapeseed oil, for shallow frying
For the confit pigeon, cover the legs and wings in salt and thyme and set aside to rest for at least 15 minutes.
Wipe all of the salt and thyme off the pigeon legs and wings and add to a saucepan. Cover with duck fat and cook over a very low heat (65-70C/149-158F) on the stove top for 30-35 minutes, or until the meat falls away from the bone.
In the meantime, fry the spinach in a pan with a little butter. Remove from the pan and squeeze thoroughly to remove any excess water.
Remove the legs and wings from the heat and leave to cool in the fat until you can handle them.
When ready to serve, pick off all of the meat and add it back to a frying pan with the drained spinach to heat gently.
Preheat the oven to 180/350F/Gas 4.
For the game jus, roast the pigeon carcass and chicken wings in a roasting pan in the oven until dark brown. Remove from the roasting pan and set aside.
Place the roasting pan on the hob over a medium heat and add the red wine, scraping up all the sticky brown residue from the pan. Simmer until the volume of the liquid is reduced by just over half.
Meanwhile, gently fry the carrot, celery, onion, garlic, juniper berries and thyme in a large saucepan with a little olive oil.
Add the reduced wine from the roasting pan, the pigeon carcass and chicken wings, along with the chicken stock and simmer until the volume of the liquid is reduced by half again.
Pass through a sieve lined with muslin into a clean pan and simmer until the sauce is a syrupy consistency. Finish with a knob of unsalted butter and the balsamic vinegar, to taste.
For the cauliflower purée, add the florets to a saucepan with the milk, double cream, salt and pepper, and boil for 15-20 minutes until tender.
Drain, reserving the liquid, and blend in a food processor for 3-4 minutes until completely smooth, adding some of the cooking liquid if necessary. Pass through a fine sieve and keep warm until serving.
For the pigeon breast wrapped in filo pastry, season the four skinless pigeon breasts with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Brown in a pan in butter for 30 seconds on each side, then set aside to rest.
Fry the spinach in a pan with a little butter until wilted and tender. Remove from the heat, allow to cool slightly and squeeze thoroughly to remove any excess water. Season with some freshly picked thyme.
Cut the garlic cloves in half and rub them all over the mushrooms. Then fry the mushrooms in a little butter until softened. Finely chop the cooked mushrooms, adding any juices to the game jus. Set the mushrooms aside on kitchen paper.
To assemble the parcel, brush the pigeon breast with English mustard. Lay out two slices of Parma ham with the edges overlapping and place the mustard covered pigeon breast at on end. Top with the mushrooms, shaved truffle, and spinach. Roll up the parcels.
Cut the filo pastry sheet in half lengthways. Then fold each half into two lengthways. Brush the pastry with a little egg. Roll the ham-wrapped pigeon breast up in the filo pastry to form a parcel. Brush with egg.
Fill a frying pan with 2.5cm/1in with rapeseed oil and heat. Fry the parcels, turning regularly, until golden-brown all the way around the outside. Then place on a baking tray in the oven for 3-4 minutes for a pink pigeon breast. Remove and allow to rest before trimming off the ends and slicing in half to form two neat parcels to serve.
For the pan-fried pigeon breast, season the pigeon breasts with salt and pepper.
Fry skin-side down, in a little rapeseed oil, until golden-brown. Turn over, add the butter and thyme, and cook to your liking. Set aside to rest for five minutes before trimming off the ends to serve.
For the pigeon liver parcel, season the pigeon liver with salt, pepper and thyme.
Lay out a slice of Parma ham and top with a liver. Place a morel mushroom on top and wrap up in the Parma ham.
Fry in a hot frying pan in rapeseed oil for 2-3 minutes. Set aside to rest for 2-3 minutes before slicing off the ends to serve.
For the asparagus stuffed morels, blanch the asparagus tips in a mixture of boiling water, garlic and butter. Then refresh in iced water.
Fry the asparagus and morels together in a frying pan with a knob of butter and the lemon juice.
Place the asparagus tips into the morels for garnish.
To serve, place a swipe of the cauliflower purée in the centre of each plate. Then add a mound of the confit pigeon meat and spinach to one side, topped with the trimmed, pan-fried pigeon breast.
Add three of the asparagus stuffed morels, then the two slices of filo-wrapped pigeon breast and a trimmed liver parcel. Then finish with the sauce.
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