Pigeon is one of the most underrated and underused meat in the UK – which is a shame as a pigeon is around £2.50 and is delicious! Pigeon is dark, rich, and dense meat with an accent of wild game. Historically pigeon was popular with many civilizations, including Ancient Egypt, Rome and Medieval Europe. The Romans were passionate about them and Varro, Columella and Pliny the Elder all wrote works on pigeon farming and dovecote construction.
In France you can still see Pigeonniers (dovecotes) and in Medieval times, the possession of a dovecote was a symbol of status and power and was consequently regulated by law. Only nobles had this special privilege known as droit de colombier. Many ancient manors in France and the United Kingdom have a dovecote (still standing or in ruins) in one section of the manorial enclosure or in nearby fields. The oldest dovecotes are thought to have been the fortified dovecotes of Upper Egypt, and the domed dovecotes of Iran.
Pigeon with Grapes
2 tsp grated orange rind
8 slices streaky bacon
225g shallots, peeled and whole
200ml dry cider
450g seedless grapes
1 tbsp flour
150ml soured cream, or plain low fat yoghurt
orange wedges, to garnish
salt and pepper
Beat the butter and orange rind together. Using half of it, place a small knob inside each bird. Season with salt and pepper. Wrap the pigeons in the bacon slices and tie around with twine. Fry the birds in a flame proof casserole over moderate heat for 15-20 minutes, turning them frequently. Pour off the fat and stir in the onions. Place the pigeons breast side up, pour on the cider, season with salt and pepper, bring to the boil and cover. Cook in the oven at 350ºF (180ºC), Gas 4 for 1 hour. Add the grapes, cover and cook for a further 20-25 minutes, or until the pigeons are tender. Remove the pigeons and keep them warm.
Beat the remaining orange butter into the flour. Add to the sauce and simmer on top of the stove for 3-4 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Stir in the soured cream or yoghurt and adjust the seasoning. Pour over the pigeons and garnish with the orange wedges.