The perfect route to try some pigeon en croute

Pigeon en croute (serves four)

Ingredients Instructions
  • 8 fresh pigeon breasts (skinned)
  • 250g button mushrooms (washed, diced, cooked and chilled)
  • 250g fresh spinach (washed, cooked and chilled)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (peeled and crushed)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 pinch grated nutmeg
  • 20 turns of ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme (finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme (finely chopped)
  • 2 eggs (beaten)
  • A handful of poppy seeds
  • For the sauce - 4 tbsp butter
  • 75g shallot (finely diced)
  • 150g button mushrooms (finely diced)
  • 75g blackcurrants
  • 240ml ruby port (at least 10 years old)
  • Zest of ¼ orange
  • 350ml fresh beef stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • Season the pigeon breasts with a sprinkling of salt on both sides. Place a frying pan on full heat, add a teaspoon of rapeseed oil and, when smoking, add the pigeon breasts. Sear for twenty seconds, then turn over and repeat the process. Remove from the pan, set aside to cool and then refrigerate.
  • Place all the other ingredients except the pastry into a bowl and mix together, adjusting the seasoning to your taste, then refrigerate. Roll the puff pastry out on a lightly floured surface to about 2mm thickness. Cut out four 15x10cm rectangles and set aside. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper.
  • Remove the pigeon breasts and vegetable mix from the fridge. For each parcel, place one tablespoon of the veg mix in the centre of each puff pastry rectangle, top with two pigeon breasts side by side, then top these with another tablespoon of veg.
  • Brush the pastry edges with the beaten egg, then fold the long sides into the middle so that they overlap slightly. Repeat with the remaining puff-pastry rectangles to make four parcels. Flip these so that the joins are underneath, then crimp the edges of the open ends to form sealed parcels. Brush the pastries with the remaining beaten egg and sprinkle with poppy seeds.
  • Brush the pastry edges with the beaten egg, then fold the long sides into the middle so that they overlap slightly. Repeat with the remaining puff-pastry rectangles to make four parcels. Flip these so that the joins are underneath, then crimp the edges of the open ends to form sealed parcels. Brush the pastries with the remaining beaten egg and sprinkle with poppy seeds.
  • For the sauce: Melt half of the butter in a medium sized saucepan. Add the shallots and cook until soft, then add the mushrooms and blackcurrants and cook gently for approximately four minutes. Pour in the port, add the orange zest and reduce by one third.
  • Add the stock and simmer for 25 minutes, skimming the surface whenever necessary. Pass the sauce through a fine sieve and whisk in the remaining butter. The sauce is ready to use. For this recipe I have served the pigeon en croute with a medley of seasonal vegetables from our own kitchen garden. You should feel free at home to choose your own combination to accompany the dish, but I would suggest earthy flavours such as globe artichoke and beetroot – these really complement the butteriness of the pastry and the sweetness of the sauce.
  • To serve, place a parcel to one side of each plate then neatly arrange your vegetables on the other side in a thin line, mixing all the different colours to add to the dish’s visual appeal, then spoon around some of the sauce.