Wood Pigeon with peas and why I can’t kel it no more

Pigeon aux petits pois

I’ve cooked this classic recipe for years and years. I was shown how, rather than reading it in a book, so it may not be that authentic. Still delicious, though.

When I lived in North London, I had a Cypriot butcher who could supply game. The quality of the pigeons were a bit pot luck, but as they came with their feathers on at least you knew you weren’t eating the sky rats.
Later, in a different part of the country, I had a friend who liked to shoot and would turn up with a few rabbits and on one occasion, 27 pigeon. He would shoot, but only if he knew they would go to good use. With the luxury of that number of birds, I could strip out the breast of some and pluck and keep whole a few. I think pigeon breast is my favourite meat. Then I think that a filet of venison is, or a duck breast. Smoked duck breast sliced thin, on a salad dressed with a little raspberry vinaigrette. I have expensive tastes, but think now, my weekly shopping bill is about the same as an average meal for two in a London restaurant!

Anyway back to pigeon.
It’s a simple recipe and popular. This is my version and the addition of lardons may not be traditional, but I seem to remember that I always did add them. I haven’t cooked it for a while because having no local game butcher, I rely on the boys and they say they can’t get me wild pigeon here. For some reason. Never clearly explained to me in a way that I can understand. Their loss

A pigeon apiece for a start.
A couple of cans of the nice French petits pois – drained and rinsed to take out the taste of the can. (I have never been able to get fresh peas, young enough, to put with this dish)
Smoked lardons – not too many, so you don’t overpower the flavour of the rest.
A herb. Thyme – fresh is best.
Melt some clarified butter in the base of a good heavy fireproof dish or pan.
Brown each pigeon on all sides, but don’t let it linger too long on the breast sides and ruin by cooking the breast meat before its turn.
Remove the pigeon and keep aside.
Add lardons, and turn in the fat, fairly briskly until they sizzle.
There should be no excess fat to this dish, but if you started with a bit too much butter, or your lardons have rendered a bit too much, then scoop and discard .
Add finely diced onion to the pan, and cook gently until translucent.
Add a glass of white wine and bubble, scraping up the pigeon juice.
Put your pigeons back in and lightly season.
Add herb.
Put a firm lid on and cook gently for thirty minutes or so.
The pigeon should have rendered juice, but if the liquid looks on the scant side, then add a little stock.
Now add the peas and cook until they are heated through.

A foot note.
When the boys got pigeon, one night, we did just roast them on a a bit of stick over the fire.
My tiny niece reported thus:
“Me uncle got a bird and burned it on the fire. I ate its leg. It was nice.”
Out of the mouths of babes.

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