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Pigeon Pie Recipe From My Grandmothers Kitchen

Updated on November 3, 2014
Pigeons On The Roof by Joseph Crawhall (1861-1913) Art Gallery and Museum, Kelvingrove, Glasgow, Scotland
Pigeons On The Roof by Joseph Crawhall (1861-1913) Art Gallery and Museum, Kelvingrove, Glasgow, Scotland | Source

Why Don't We Eat Pigeon Pie Anymore?

Pigeon pie was an old favourite and pigeons were an important food source historically in Western Europe. They were kept for their eggs, flesh, and dung, but it's not a meat you see often these days. A pity because, like other game meats, it's both healthy and tasty.

Usually considered a delicacy, young pigeon, or squab is tender, moist and rich in taste. The dark meat, concentrated mainly in the breast. is fatty, like that of duck, but the meat is very lean, easily digestible, and "rich in proteins, minerals, and vitamins. With a milder taste than other game, it has been described as having a mild berry flavor".

This recipe is from my Grandmother's cookbook, but I can't say that I can remember her making pigeon pie for us, nor have made this yet for my guests at our Bed and Breakfast Les Trois Chenes, but I just might give it a go now that I've found out how very good they are.

News! Masterchef, Tuesday 22nd November at 8pm they're preparing pigeon! OK, not easy. Advice was: Make sure you don't tear the skin, make sure all innards are removed, don't rinse with water, truss correctly.

Source

My Grandmother's Pigeon Pie Recipe

(Also known as squab pie)

1 fine beef steak, pigeons and livers, parsley, 1/2 pint gravy, little butter, salt and pepper. If to be served hot use flaky pastry, if cold use short crust pastry.

Butter the dish and put pastry round the sides and edges. Place the steak on the bottom of the dish and season with salt and pepper. On top of this place the birds, rubbed inside and out with salt and pepper, and a piece of butter inside each one. Make sure that you put the breasts downwards to keep juicy. Add chopped livers and parsely. Pour on the gravy and cover with the pastry. Make a hole in the top. If you like (!) you can put one of the birds' feet, nicely cleaned, into the hole. Brush over with beaten yolk of egg and bake 1 1/2 hours.

Image: My Gran!

More Of My Gran's Pie Recipes

And pastry recipes for pies

For more pie recipes from my Grandmother's kitchen see: Pastry Recipes for Pies from my Grandmother's Kitchen

You can find her pastry recipes here: Pie Recipes from my Grandmother's Kitchen

Have a look at the videos below for preparation of the birds and an alternative, and perhaps more contemporary way of preparing the pie. (Where does the gravy come from?)

'Christmas Pudding and Pigeon Pie' by Nancy Mitford - I just had to put this soon-to-be-released book in!

Even though it doesn't have a picture of this paperback book - shame about that.

This is so hot off the Press that you can't even buy it yet (at the time of writing). It's due to come out on September 10th 2013, but it is possible to pre-order it.

You might like to have a look at my article on Christmas pudding traditions as we seem to be on the subject.

Christmas Pudding and Pigeon Pie
Christmas Pudding and Pigeon Pie

Nancy Mitford, one of the amazing Mitford girls, always a great read!

 

Another Great Traditional Dish - Curried chicken gizzards

It used to be said that every bit of the pig was used, except it's squeak!

Times are hard and we should start to embrace those good, old fashioned recipes that make use of all those tasty bits and pieces of the animals we slaughter for our food. Here's one delicious recipe for using what the French call 'gesiers'. In France the little tasty morsels of 'this and that' are still valued and these are the delicacies, chicken, goose or turkey gizzards, heart, kidney, trotters, meat from the head, tripe .....

Lets get back to basics and rediscover real food.

How to Prepare Your Pigeon - Not for the fainthearted!

Do not watch if you're of a 'nervous' disposition; you can always buy your pigeons all ready for use from the supermarket, or better still, your local butcher.

Have a look at this pigeon pie in the making

The Life of Pie - Radio 4 visits the Great British Pie Awards

Listen to the story of the renaissance of the humble pie.

Illustration from Sing a Song for Sixpence (1880) by Randolph Caldecott (d. 1886)
Illustration from Sing a Song for Sixpence (1880) by Randolph Caldecott (d. 1886) | Source

And if you can't face all this?

Put live birds in your pies!

Sing a Song of Sixpence

Sing a song of sixpence,

A pocket full of rye.

Four and twenty blackbirds,

Baked in a pie.

When the pie was opened,

The birds began to sing;

Wasn't that a dainty dish,

To set before the king?

The king was in his counting house,

Counting out his money;

The queen was in the parlour,

Eating bread and honey.

The maid was in the garden,

Hanging out the clothes;

When down came a blackbird

And pecked off her nose.

In the 16th century it was considered amusing to put live birds in a pie, (a bit like my goldfish!). An Italian cookbook from 1549 (translated into English in 1598) contained a recipe: "to make pies so that birds may be alive in them and flie out when it is cut up," and this was referred to in a cook book of 1725 by John Nott. At the wedding of Marie de' Medici and Henry IV of France in 1600, "The first surprise, though, came shortly before the starter, when the guests sat down, unfolded their napkins and saw songbirds fly out".

Image: Illustration from Sing a Song for Sixpence (1880) by Randolph Caldecott (d. 1886) Public domain image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Blackbirds for Your Pies! - The're going for a song and make a charming gift

My Grandmother had exactly the same pie birds as this one

These pie birds, or pie funnels, are designed to allow the steam to escape from the pie and to support the pastry. Mrs Beeton, as well as my Gran, suggests that you put a pigeon foot or two poking out of the centre of the pie, so I think these pretty birds are definitely the lesser of two evils.

Porcelain Pie Bird
Porcelain Pie Bird

This little bird is about 4" high and sits in your pie dish singing it's little heart out - and letting the steam out of your pie at the same time! Cost a fortune - no way - it's going for a song!

 

My blackbird pie funnel - And my pie!

My pie - but it wasn't pigeon pie!
My pie - but it wasn't pigeon pie! | Source

OK, it wasn't a pigeon pie but it was a pie bird. I love the idea of the blackbirds baked in a pie - so long as it remains just that - an idea.

Everything You Wanted to Know About Pie Birds

.... but were afraid to ask

Pie birds and pie funnels help you bake the perfect pie

Spring (detail), painting by Pieter Breughel the Younger?, 1635
Spring (detail), painting by Pieter Breughel the Younger?, 1635 | Source

The History of Pigeon Keeping

Now, unless you have a very specific interest in pigeons or pigeon meat, you probably haven't given a great deal of thought to their history and housing, but it is a fascinating subject.

The Domestic Pigeon (Columba livia f. domestica) was derived from the Rock Pigeon, the world's oldest domesticated bird. Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets and Egyptian hieroglyphics show that pigeons were kept more than 5,000 years ago. Research suggests that domestication of pigeons was as early as ten thousand years ago.

Far from being a lowly meat, pigeon has been associated with la créme de la créme. In some cultures, particularly Medieval Europe,owning a dovecote was a symbol of status and power jealously guarded and regulated by law. Only nobles had this special privilege, known as droit de colombier, and many ancient manors in France and the United Kingdom have a dovecote. In Limousin, many ordinary farm houses still have their pigeonniers along with their rabbitries. Many painting show dovecotes, like the one by Pieter Breughel, illustrated.

Pigeonnier Manoir d'ango Dieppe
Pigeonnier Manoir d'ango Dieppe | Source

Dovecotes, Pigeonnieres and Colombiers

Houses for doves

The oldest dovecotes are thought to have been the fortified dovecotes of Upper Egypt, and the domed dovecotes of Iran. In these hot, dry regions, it was not only the meat and eggs that were used, but the droppings were in great demand as fertilisers.

Dovecotes appeared in Europe along with the Romans. The presence of dovecotes is not noted in France before the Roman invasion of Gaul by Caesar. Columbaria, or pigeon farms were then a passion in Rome: the Roman, generally round, columbarium had its interior covered with a white coating of marble powder.

The French word for dovecote is pigeonnier or colombier. In some French provinces, especially Normandy, France, the dovecotes were built of wood or stone and could be circular, square and occasionally octagonal in form. Some of the medieval French abbeys had very large stone dovecotes on their grounds.

In Brittany the dovecote was sometimes built directly into the upper walls of the farmhouse or manor-house, and, in rare cases, it was built into the upper gallery of the lookout tower, called tour-fuie.

You will find that people all over the world have kept pigeons and built dwellings for the of one sort or another and pigeon-keeping as a hobby still thrives today.

Dove of Peace, presented by His Holiness Pope John Paul II, on the occasion of his visit to the United Nations, 2 October 1979. The mosaic is a copy of one that was executed in the Constantinian Basilica during the pontificate of Pope Innocent III (1
Dove of Peace, presented by His Holiness Pope John Paul II, on the occasion of his visit to the United Nations, 2 October 1979. The mosaic is a copy of one that was executed in the Constantinian Basilica during the pontificate of Pope Innocent III (1 | Source

What's the difference between a pigeon and a dove?

There's no true scientific difference between pigeons and doves, they both belong to the family Columbidae. While the smaller pigeons often get called 'doves', this is fairly inconsistent and the real difference is the way we think of them. 'Doves' would never be called vermin, and the Pigeon of Peace doesn't sound quite right. So, doves are things to do with love, and pigeons are to be eradicated from our cities.

Image: Dove of Peace, presented by His Holiness Pope John Paul II, on the occasion of his visit to the United Nations, 2 October 1979. The mosaic is a copy of one that was executed in the Constantinian Basilica during the pontificate of Pope Innocent III (1198-1216). The enamels were made in 1727, the frame, made in 1796, is of gilt bronze. Courtesy of Gryffindor, Wikimedia Commons

Feast your mince pies on these cookbooks - 'Mince pies' - Cockney rhyming slang for 'eyes'.

So is it pie in the sky? - Or will you give it a go?

Three Domesticated Pigeons Sitting Together
Three Domesticated Pigeons Sitting Together | Source

Will you have a go at pigeon pie?

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    • Coreena Jolene profile image

      Coreena Jolene 5 years ago

      Excellent lens. Squab makes pigeon sound so much more sophisticated. My father said they used to eat Swans and Squab in England as a delicacy. I don't know how I feel about eating these birds. Funny how our culture changes us. My babysitter I had years ago had pigeons and she used the eggs for baking, it took a ton to equal chicken eggs.

    • BLouw profile image
      Author

      Barbara Walton 5 years ago from France

      @Coreena Jolene: I expect it would be a delicacy when you think how long it would take to prepare them. Very keen to make this pie but so far haven't found anyone else willing to taste it! Many thanks for leaving a message.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Yummy! Ill definitely share this with my friends. Thanks for sharing. Squid-liked!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      great lens indeed, I loved how you opened this with asking a good question that caught my attention and then I just had to read it, well done indeed.

    • BLouw profile image
      Author

      Barbara Walton 5 years ago from France

      @anonymous: Do you mean share the pie or share the article, amieljaven? Do let me know if you ever make it :) and thanks for dropping by.

    • BLouw profile image
      Author

      Barbara Walton 5 years ago from France

      @anonymous: Thanks for this feeback cffutah, it's nice to know what works. At the moment it's anything that comes to mind and this was my burning question once I'd read how good pigeon meat is.

    • BLouw profile image
      Author

      Barbara Walton 5 years ago from France

      Thanks so much for your blessing, Heidi, and for your kind words.

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 5 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      Interesting! Thanks for adding this to my Recipes, Reviews and Food Collection lens.

    • BLouw profile image
      Author

      Barbara Walton 5 years ago from France

      @SandyMertens: So pleased that you found time to take a peek. Thank you for the opportunity to add to your lens. Great idea.

    • BLouw profile image
      Author

      Barbara Walton 5 years ago from France

      @TreasuresBrenda: Hi Brenda, and thanks for your comment. Have you tried pigeon? I'd love to _ I like pheasant etc so expect it's delicious.

    • Zut Moon profile image

      Zut Moon 5 years ago

      Sorry but you failed to convince me to eat pigeon. Turkey, chicken OK ... even duck ... but pigeon ... no way ....

      Good lens if something wants to try it .... but not this dude ...

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 5 years ago

      Tweet Tweet and chirp chirp. Ah, poor little pigeon. Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, we used to travel downtown with our grandma. In the square, we could feed the pigeons who seemed to be there by the thousands. I guess because I was in awe of them, all those years ago, I can't think to eat them in a pie. Although I do contemplate chicken pot pies.

    • BLouw profile image
      Author

      Barbara Walton 5 years ago from France

      @julieannbrady: Aw, Julie, think of all those cute chick-a-dees, those darling little lambs, those sweet and mega-intelligent piglets and those adorable, doe-eyed calves ..... sad but true.

    • BLouw profile image
      Author

      Barbara Walton 5 years ago from France

      @Zut Moon: As one who tried the good life and found preparing a hen from scratch a. distastful in the extreme and b; that it took mea bout 4 hours to do it and do it badly - my only problem with pigeon is that it would take me all day to get two bites of meat. I'll stick with a tin of lentils - at least while food is so plentiful.

    • ChinaGal profile image

      ChinaGal 5 years ago

      My husband like to hunt dove but he never gets enough to make a pie. I love this lens though - really nicely done:)

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 4 years ago from Ljubljana

      I don't think pigeons living in towns are edible but otherwise, sure, why not. I remember books about knights I read when I was a kid and pigeon pies were on their menu. And they were winning tournaments and beautiful ladies's hearts too!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I was thinking along the lines of Tolavaj....maybe if those pigeons grew up in the country and maybe had a dovecote. Your Gran's recipe shows how nothing was wasted and I'm sure it tasted wonderful and everyone looked forward to it as it baked and filled the house with aroma. Years ago, I used to hunt and cook partridge and got to wondering about changing you pigeon pie recipe to partridge (quail). I'm all for putting the glass blackbird in, just can't handle that foot idea....maybe a fresh twig cut to look like a foot would be cute.

    • BLouw profile image
      Author

      Barbara Walton 4 years ago from France

      @ChinaGal: Perhaps you could do a mixed game pie or pigeon and chicken pie? Thanks for leaving a meassage ChinaGal.

    • BLouw profile image
      Author

      Barbara Walton 4 years ago from France

      @TolovajWordsmith: Times are getting harder and we might be looking at pigeons, (hedgehogs and badgers) with a new and greedy glint in our eyes soon! ;)

    • BLouw profile image
      Author

      Barbara Walton 4 years ago from France

      @anonymous: I agree with you Tipi - feet in pies - no! I'm sure the recipe would work fine with a whole range of gamey meats - I'm a great one for substitution!

    • Brandi Bush profile image

      Brandi 4 years ago from Maryland

      Ooooh, I love the pie birds...now I must have one! I have never had pigeon or pigeon pie, but I do love this lens and would love to try pigeon pie someday. As long as someone else prepares the bird! :)

    • profile image

      VirginiaR 4 years ago

      What a nice lens. I was wondering about pigeon pie and you have it all here.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      And here is an animated short about the easiest pigeon to catch/easiest way to find a pigeon for your pie!

      www.vimeo.com/steventwigg/birdseyeview

    • lrdl3535 profile image

      Richard Lindsay 11 months ago from California

      Great post, this is the second time I have heard of pigeon pie. It sounds interesting and I may try it one of these days. But all of my pigeons are sold for profit and none are left. So it will have to wait awhile longer,but I will try it eventually.

    • BLouw profile image
      Author

      Barbara Walton 11 months ago from France

      Pigeon pie is trendy at the moment with top chefs. Wonder what you sell your pigeons for, if not pies, Irdl3535?

    • lrdl3535 profile image

      Richard Lindsay 11 months ago from California

      I let my son handle all of them now. But they are sold to other local breeders who want them. People are starting to want more of them then they use to.

    • BLouw profile image
      Author

      Barbara Walton 11 months ago from France

      What do they do with them? Show them, race them eat them?

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