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Pigeon Pie
serves 6

12oz/350g puff pastry
6 pigeons, plucked and gutted
salt and pepper
1 large carrot, thickly sliced
1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped
spice bundle (a few black peppercorns, allspice and juniper berries, and 2 cloves, tied in a bit of muslin)
4 shallots, peeled and chopped
4oz/110g button mushrooms, quartered
2oz/50g/4 tbsp unsalted butter
6oz/175g sliced cooked ham or gammon, cut into small strips
8oz/225g good steak, beaten and cut into small thin slices
seasoned flour for sprinkling
4 hard-boiled egg yolks, quartered
egg wash for glazing


Cold pigeon pies were popular fare for summer picnics, and indeed still are; only today we use the pinions and other oddments for gravy to moisten the meat instead of using them for show.

Roll out the pastry to fit an inverted 1¾ pint/1 litre/4½ cup English pie dish with 1½ inches/4 cm to spare all round. Leave to rest for 30 minutes.

Carefully separate the pigeon breasts from the carcases. Season the carcases and put them into a fairly large pan with the carrot, onion and spice bundle. Cover with water. Simmer for about 40 minutes, then strain the stock into a bowl and discard the bones, vegetables and spices.

Meanwhile sauté the shallots and mushrooms in about 1oz/25g/2 tbsp of the butter until both are softened; use more butter if you need it. Add the ham or gammon. Sprinkle the steak with seasoned flour, then layer the steak, quartered hard-boiled egg yolks, shallots, mushrooms, ham and pigeon breasts in the pie dish with a pie funnel in the centre. Fill up the dish with the stock and leave to cool.

Pre-heat the oven to 425°F/220°C/Gas mark 7. Cut off a 1 inch/2.5cm strip around the edge of the pastry. Moisten the rim of the pie dish and fit on the strip, sealing the join. Moisten the strip lightly and fit on the pastry cover. Knock up or flute the edge if you wish. Cut some triangular slits in the crust to let steam escape, lift the flaps slightly, then brush the crust with egg wash.

Bake the pie for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350°F/180°C/Gas mark 4 and cook for about 1½ hours longer. Cover the pie with wetted greaseproof paper (or baking parchment) half-way through to prevent the pastry over-browning and hardening.

Reproduced by kind permission of The Jane Austen Cookbook by Maggie Black and Deirdre Le Faye, published by Random House; ISBN 0771014171
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