Squab pigeon casserole
This casserole uses farmed squab pigeon, which has a milder, sweeter flavour than wild wood pigeons.
For the casserole
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 knobs of butter
- 150g/5½oz smoked bacon lardons
- 2 small onions, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 4 thyme sprigs, leaves removed and chopped
- 250ml/9fl oz dry white wine
- 250ml/9fl oz chicken stock
- 2 squab pigeons (each about 200g/7oz), legs separated and livers removed and reserved (ask your butcher to do this)
- 1 small savoy cabbage, finely sliced
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the pommes noisettes
Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4.
To make the casserole, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil and knob of the butter in a heavy-based casserole and fry the lardons and pigeon legs for 5 minutes, or until crisp and golden. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the onions, garlic and thyme to the casserole and fry gently for 8–10 minutes, or until soft. Pour in the wine and stock, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Return the bacon and pigeon legs to the pan, cover with a lid and transfer to the oven for 1 hour 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, for the pommes noisettes, use a melon baller to scoop out small balls of potato. Place the potato balls in a saucepan of boiling salted water, cook for 2 minutes, drain and leave to steam.
Heat the clarified butter in a sauté pan. Add the potatoes, thyme and garlic and fry for 7–8 minutes, turning and swirling the potatoes constantly so they colour evenly. Remove the potato balls from the pan using a slotted spoon and transfer to kitchen paper to drain.
Increase the oven temperature to 220C/200C Fan/Gas 7. Season the pigeon crowns with plenty of salt and pepper. Heat a little more oil and butter in a frying pan and brown the pigeon crowns all over, basting with more butter as the skin browns. Remove the lid from the casserole, rest the crowns on top then return to the oven for for 10–12 minutes.
Remove the pigeon crowns from the casserole and set aside to rest. Put the casserole on the hob over a high heat. Add the livers and cabbage and fry quickly until the cabbage is wilted and the livers are just cooked through. Add the pommes noisettes and toss to combine.
Carve the breasts from the pigeons and serve with the casserole.
You could also use pheasant instead of pigeon when in season.