Our humble native woody has proven resilient, adaptable and clever in its ability to thrive as modern farming methods develop. The Wood Pigeon is a master of flight, is beautiful to look at and a challenging quarry to shoot. Even after being removed as a blight on a farmer’s fields, the Pigeon keeps on giving, proving as adaptable in the food chain as in the countryside.
Although there are many recipes for pies, stews and other dishes out there with pigeon as a key ingredient, I love the idea of the following recipe I found, taking the humble Pigeon and placing at the heart of an American classic, the Pastrami and pickle sandwich, keeping the rich meaty taste but cutting the fat right down.
For me the perfect sandwich consists of good quality fresh bread, tasty meat and something crisp, fresh and complimentary. The recipe may sound time consuming but is worth the effort and made in batches, little more time consuming than going to the farmers market.
To make pigeon pastrami
- 1tbs coriander seeds
- ½tsp black peppercorns
- ½tsp white peppercorns
- ½tsp juniper berries
- 25g coarse sea salt
- 25g dark muscavado sugar
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1tsp thyme leaves
- Plenty of pigeon breasts
- 1tbs peppercorns
- 200g rice
- 2 large sprigs of thyme
- 1tbs juniper berries
First cure the pigeon breast. Simply make a curing spice mix by grinding together the curing spices, salt, garlic, thyme and sugar. Rub the curing spice mix into the breasts.
Vacuum-pack the breast and legs with the spice mix and leave to cure for eight hours.
Wash the cured pigeon legs and breast and pat dry using kitchen paper. Crush the pink peppercorns and cover the pigeon breast and legs.
Once you are ready to smoke the pigeon, make a smoker using a deep oven tray, metal cooling rack and tin foil. Line the baking tray with a layer of the foil, spread the dry rice, sprigs of thyme and juniper berries and position the cooling rack over the rice mixture. Place the pigeon breast and legs skin-side down on to the cooling rack. Place the tray over heat and start the smoking process. Cover the rack with foil and, once the rice starts to smoke, turn the heat off and leave the pigeon breast to smoke for six minutes and the legs for 12 minutes.
Slice the breasts thinly for a perfect sandwich filler.
Leave to cool whilst you prepare your other sandwich ingredients, obviously this is up to you but certainly I recommend Dill pickles, crisp salad and American mustard.
Build your sandwich, compliment it with crisps or fries, then sit back and enjoy. An amazing lunch with pastrami that will keep for over a week!