Wood pigeon with beetroot ketchup and salad

Plentiful all year round, wild wood pigeon has long featured on restaurant menus. This little game bird fits in perfectly with our growing appetite for sustainable, locally sourced meat.

But you don’t need to be a pro to cook wood pigeon. Rapidly seared (a minute each side) and then rested, soft, succulent boned breast has a diverse taste thanks to its wild diet (seeds, acorns, buds, berries, green crops) so it has a more complex earthy, woodland taste.

One breast per person is enough for a starter, so for a more filling dish two breasts per person may be appropriate but please feel free to alter.

Please note to avoid dental disasters, chew gingerly at first as occasionally, a tiny pellet of lead shot may be buried in the meat.

Wood pigeon is a steal. You’ll find young, fresh birds at a traditional butcher’s that deals in game from local shoots, or at game stalls in farmers’ markets. Guide prices: pack of 10 breasts £8, or £2‑£2.30 for a whole bird.

For the beetroot ketchup

  • 500g cooked beetroot
  • 100g white wine vinegar
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1g xanthan gum

 

  1. Boil ingredients together and then blend until smooth.
  2. Once done, pass through a chinois and leave to cool.

For the salad:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 150g/5½oz wild mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed
  • 90g/3¼oz cooked chestnuts
  • 3 tbsp celery leaves
  • 75g/2¾oz mixed winter salad leaves
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • vegetable oil, for frying

 

  1. Heat a frying pan until hot then add the oil and shallots and cook gently for two minutes until just softened.
  2. Add the mushrooms and fry for two more minutes until the mushrooms are just tender. Tip the mixture into a large bowl then add the chestnuts, celery and salad leaves.
  3. Whisk the mustard, vinegar and extra virgin olive oil together and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  4. For the pigeon, preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Season the pigeon breast with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  5. Heat an ovenproof frying pan until hot then add the olive oil and butter. Cook the pigeon breasts, skin side down, for one minute until golden-brown then turn and cook for another minute. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast for three minutes.
  6. Remove the pan from the oven and leave to rest for five minutes, basting occasionally with the pan juices.
  7. To serve, dress the salad with the dressing. Carve the pigeon into thick slices then add to the salad. Add beetroot ketchup depending on how much you want, and voila!