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Pigeon Pie - both wartime and Medieval recipes.
Pigeon pie has been a favourite inexpensive (or free) food of peasants and the lower classes for centuries. Although any type of pigeon could be used, many are protected or are Doves and are much smaller than the common Wood Pigeon which is absolutely delicious and plentiful. Pigeon meat has become quite fashionable and is a favourite of top chefs these days; they are at their best from March to September
10 pigeon breasts (your butcher can prepare these and make sure there is no lead shot)
1 large onion
1 stick celery
1 small leek
4 tbsp olive oil
4 oz chicken livers (Frozen or fresh)
7 oz pancetta lardons (or streaky bacon - get your butcher to cut for you)
7 oz button mushrooms (Fresh field ones would be nicer)
7 oz small shallots, finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato purée (they obviously did not have tubes of puree in medieval times, if you want to be authentic just de-skin and de-pip a tomato, add a little salt, wine vinegar and sugar)
1 pint game or chicken stock (most people rarely have a stock pot on the go so to get a more authentic taste ask the butcher for the pigeon carcases, remove feet and any stray feathers, but leave everything else including offal and simmer in a pan for at least an hour then strain thoroughly making sure there is no lead shot. The meat from the legs will fall away and can be added to the pie dish)
10 black peppercorns
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
10 fresh sage leaves
a pinch of fresh thyme
18 oz shortcrust pastry (again either use shop bought or make your own. I tend to find it’s not worth making your own)
Olive oil (use basic Olive Oil not virgin which does not cook very well) (Olive oil is unlikely to have been available in Medieval times so substitute butter - again homemade or shop bought)
Cut up the pigeon breasts into small pieces (half inch square) and finely cut up the onion, celery, leek and carrot. Heat one tablespoon of Mediterranean olive oil (don’t use virgin) in a frying pan over a moderate heat and fry the pigeon, chicken livers and pancetta in olive oil until lightly browned. Put into a pie dish. Add a further tablespoon of the oil to the frying pan and gently fry the onion, celery, leek and carrot until golden, then add this to the pie dish. Fry the button mushrooms and shallots in the remaining oil and also add to the pie dish.
Add tomato paste to the pan and gently heat for 1 minute. Deglaze the pan with the stock and add the peppercorns, rosemary, sage and thyme to the stock, and bring to the boil.
With the oven at 355deg F pour the stock over the meat in the pie dish. Roll the pastry out to cover the pie, egg wash and decorate and bake for 45 minutes. Serve immediately.
This recipe is a variation using the cheaper cuts to give a delicious meal.
2 wood pigeons
¾ lb rump steak or good quality lean trimmings
3 oz ham or lean bacon
½ pint chicken or beef stock (or from your own stock pot)
1 hard-boiled free range egg
The yolk of 2 eggs (or reconstituted egg yolk powder or milk)
Puff-pastry (shop bought or home-made)
⅛ oz (5g) gelatine powder.
Salt and pepper
De-bone and cut each pigeon into 4 pieces (or ask your butcher or game dealer to do this for you). Use the carcase, bones and offal in the stock and simmer gently while you prepare other ingredients. Sieve well before use. Use the meat from the legs and add to the pie dish. Make sure the meat is free of lead shot.
Cut the beef into small thin slices, the ham or bacon into strips and the egg into slices
Place these ingredients into a pie dish in layers, season well and pour in the stock to three-quarters fill the dish. Use puff pastry to create a lid and brush over with egg yolk or milk and bake at 400 degF until the pastry has risen and set, and then cook at 300 degF for about 1 hour. Before serving, pour the remaining stock with premixed gelatine powder added, through the centre of the pie. The pie may be served either hot or cold. If cold, the stock must have formed a jelly.
Woolton vegetarian pie
- Woolton Pie - Wartime vegetarian Pie
This is war-time cooking used cheap basic ingredients to produce tasty vegetarian nutritious meals from carrots and other basic vegetables.
Devon Squab pie
- Devon Squab Pie - A very old recipe
A very old recipe from Devon and Cornwall where the term "Squab" indicates mutton rather than pigeon. Made from inexpensive ingredients but very tasty.
© 2013 Peter Geekie