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Pigeon pastrami with fresh radishes and watercress on sourdough bread

20 April 2010

Madalene Bonvini-Hamel of the British Larder website makes the most of seasonal April ingredients such as wood pigeon, watercress and radishes in this recipe.

For more ideas, see our article, Flavours of April >>

INGREDIENTS (Serve four)

For the 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
  • 2 whole woodpigeons

For the smoking

  • 1tbs pink peppercorns
  • 200g rice
  • 2 large sprigs of thyme
  • 1tbs juniper berries

For the pickled red cabbage

  • 700g finely sliced red cabbage
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Pinch of crushed dried chilies
  • 6 cloves
  • 6 whole juniper berries
  • 2 in number black peppercorns
  • ½ tsp coarse sea salt
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 50ml balsamic vinegar
  • 50ml malt vinegar

To serve

  • 4 slices of sourdough bread
  • 200g drained pickled red cabbage
  • 4 cornichons, sliced
  • 4 caper berries, cut in half
  • Smoked woodpigeon breasts
  • Smoked woodpigeon legs
  • 4 breakfast radishes, finely sliced
  • Fresh watercress
  • Mustard cress


Pigeon pastrami

First cure the pigeon breast and legs. To do this make a curing spice mix by grinding together the curing spices, salt, garlic, thyme and sugar. Remove the pigeon breast and legs from the carcass. Rub the curing spice mix into the breast and legs. 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.

Pickled red cabbage

Using a pestle and mortar, finely grind the spices for the pickled cabbage, add the salt and garlic and grind until a smooth paste.

Transfer the finely sliced cabbage, ground spices and both vinegars to a bag, vacuum-pack tightly and refrigerate for 12 hours.

The cabbage pickle is now ready to be used.

To serve

Smoke the pigeon pastrami breast and legs. Drain the pickled cabbage. Toast the sourdough bread in a griddle pan.

Place the warm toasted bread on a serving plate, spoon on 50g of the pickled cabbage, slice the smoked pigeon breast and set out on top.

Complete with an arrangement of the sliced cornichons, radishes, watercress and mustard cress. Skewer one pigeon's leg with two halves of caper berries and serve it on the same plate.

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