Pigeon au Vin

pigeons browning

pigeons browning

March 4th, 2013

All pigeons and doves are related and all are edible. In theory pigeons eat fruit, seeds, insects and worms, though I’ve seen city pigeons eating leftover KFC and all manner of unpleasant things. However, even in London, you’ll find large numbers of Wood Pigeon, which seem to prefer their natural food, in back gardens and parks – I’ve never seen them hanging out with their common cousins in Trafalgar Square. To be honest I find it baffling that fat contented Wood Pigeons snooze happily in trees while their relatives fight each other for mouldy scraps.

wood pigeon at large

wood pigeon at large

Almost all pigeon are classified as pests/vermin, like rabbit (there are a few tropical species which are endangered, but they do not live in Europe or North America), so they can be hunted all year round without a licence. If you do decide to dispatch Wood Pigeon in your back garden, do make sure you do it humanely or you might have a wildlife organisation prosecuting you for cruelty. The pigeon above should know better than to sit outside my kitchen window… If you keep chicken, the pigeons that have come to stay are eating the same food as the chicken 😉

Pigeon are about the same size as partridge but taste slightly stronger – a little bit similar to pheasant. They can be cooked in much the same way as game birds and chicken. Cooking time is about twenty minutes to half an hour and no hanging is required.

Pigeon in red wine sauce (serves 2):

2 Wood Pigeon
4 slices of smoked, streaky bacon (chopped)
1 pint of home made stock (I used duck, but chicken would do)
14 shallots
1 large carrot (chopped)
1 stick of celery (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
1 dessertspoonful of tomato purée
4 anchovies
1 dessertspoonful of plain flour
2 teaspoons of ground rosemary, sage and thyme (with sea salt and a few black peppercorns)
2 bay leaves
a large glass of red wine
a glass of sherry brandy
a splash of sherry vinegar
olive oil
a dessertspoonful of goose fat

onions and bacon

onions and bacon

Insert 2 anchovies into each pigeon before browning them in goose fat (use a cast iron casserole) – those in the top photo, look well done, but their skin was quite dark to start with. They only need to be cooked for a few minutes per side in hot fat. When browned all over, flame with a glass of sherry brandy – brandy flames easily if you heat it first, but don’t boil it. I had 3 foot high flames, but they only lasted for a second or two (it is important to burn off the alcohol in the brandy – don’t just pour some brandy in). Remove the pigeons and deglaze the pan with a little red wine – keep this and add it to the dish when all the other liquid goes in. Using the same casserole, fry the shallots and bacon in olive oil until both have browned a little.



Add the remaining vegetables and allow them to take some colour before stirring in the flour and herbs. Pour in the wine, vinegar, stock and deglazing liquid, plus the bay leaves. Give it a good stir, squirt in the purée and allow to warm up before returning the pigeons to the pot.

pigeon in wine

pigeon in wine

Bring the casserole to a simmer, put the lid on and place in a preheated oven at 120ºC. Cook for about 2 hours, turning the birds over half way through and tasting occasionally. If necessary, add more wine, vinegar, etc. in small amounts (you can always add more, but you can’t take flavours out). I added a little bit more sherry vinegar just before serving.

celeriac balls

celeriac balls

Serve with mashed celeriac rolled into balls, floured and fried for a few minute in olive oil.

Drink – a robust Spanish red, such as Rioja.

Other Pigeon posts

About Mad Dog

This entry was posted in Drink, Food, Game, Meat, Recipes, Spanish and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to Pigeon au Vin

  1. cecilia says:

    You may come and stay anytime at all, ALL our pigeons are raised on the very best poultry feed around and they are breeding like rabbits.. in the loft of the barn and pooping on everything! So anytime you are hungry for pigeon just pop over, you can even stay in the coupe! and pick those tiny pigeon bones clean on the verandah! c

  2. Eha says:

    Mmh: methinks Miss C has put in an unbeatable offer! Love the ‘sherry’ brandy and vinegar and the anchovies – more than a little Brit 🙂 ! Would have thought pigeon to be far less gamey than partridge or pheasant . . . and there again we learn 🙂 !

  3. I love pigeon – probably more than any other bird – and this way of cooking them looks wonderful. Celeriac must make a perfect accompaniment too, because its strong flavour would complement the richness of the pigeon. I think I’m going to have to try this soon!

  4. Now, that is wonderful. I love the anchovies in the pigeons before browning them. We have a couple of local guys who breed pigeons and sell them from their homes. I remember a delicious dish of pigeons aux petits pois at Chez Allard, in Paris, some 15 years ago. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/france/paris/restaurants/french-bistro-2/chez-allard

    • Mad Dog says:

      I used to know a retired farmer in Normandy who kept his own chicken, rabbits and pigeon. He had the most amazing vegetable garden too. The only things he had to go out and buy were bread and wine.

  5. ChgoJohn says:

    As a boy, pigeon was on the menu, not often but regularly. I’ve debated posting the recipe. It’s not that I’ve a problem cooking them. It’s the slaughtering and butchering that I’m loathe to witness again. And my live poultry store insists you be present. No matter. Your recipe here is a far cry from ours and sounds delicious, MD. Cooking and topping the dish off with sherry vinegar is a nice touch.

    • Mad Dog says:

      That’s an unusual novelty – I bet it puts a lot of customers off. Maybe they are secretly working for a vegetarian group!
      Perhaps there’s an alternate store for pigeon – I’d love to see the recipe 😉

  6. Ooh, one of our neighbours in Spain often gives us pigeons as he is over run with them and I usualy just casserole them quite simply. Love the osund of this (especially the 3 foot high flames!) and as for those little celeriac balls…mmmm!

    • Mad Dog says:

      There was a huge flame when the brandy touched the goose fat – it must be the sunshine in the Solera. Sadly, I’d managed to leap on the chair with camera, but the shutter speed was too fast and the flames don’t show in the pictures. As much as I wanted to do it again, the idea is for the dish to taste more of wine than brandy, so maybe next time…

  7. Conor Bofin says:

    Lovely stuff MD. Here, the Dublin vernacular for a ‘city pigeon’ is ‘Gick’. The biggest insult you can give to a racing pigeon enthusiast is to shout at him “Yer pigeons are gicks!” as he cycles by with the basket on the back of the bike.
    I have never eaten them and look forward to it. These look devine.

    • Mad Dog says:

      Ha ha – all those city pigeons are apparently the offspring of domesticated fowl that have escaped and gone feral.
      I’m sure you’ll like pigeon as much as I do and that the Wicklow Hunter will be happy to oblige 😉

  8. Tessa says:

    What a wonderful dish! I really like the addition of the anchovies.

  9. Muy interesante MD, nunca me había planteado comer palomas… Hasta hoy 😉

  10. Karen says:

    You would think that living in the country with an orchard that I would be overrun with pigeons but I don’t ever see any. I think that they prefer the city life. 🙂 Your dish sounds wonderful…the flavor of the sauce must be incredible.

  11. The addition of sherry would be fabulous. I’m not sure.. no, I’m certain, I couldn’t dispatch of anything.. so it’s off to the store for me:)

  12. andreamynard says:

    Pigeons have been making me very angry for weeks now as they’re eating my few remaining chard and kale plants – this looks like a delicious reason to wreak revenge. New to your blog, really enjoying it.

  13. We’ve got pigeons and mourning doves at the backyard feeders all day long. I used to dislike pigeons — “Rats with wings” as they are popularly known in NYC — but now I admire their stolidness, their survival instincts, their team play, and their flight patterns. Wouldn’t stop me from eating one though. One mustn’t get too attached to the livestock…(P.S., I will meet you at Cecilia’s for that pie)

  14. Pingback: Pigeon Breasts in Cream Sauce | Mad Dog TV Dinners

  15. Pingback: Pigeon | Mad Dog TV Dinners

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.