Friday, 6 January 2012

A Pigeon Supper....

Now, I have to be honest, before arriving to live to in Champagne I had never dreamed that anyone, except the desperate, would ever eat PIGEON! I have to confess to being shocked a few years ago after being given a fancy gourmet cookbook from the best chef's in the region and discovering more than one recipe for PIGEON. Something about the fact that these creatures are often unkindly referred to as 'sky rats' in the UK means that one has to take a monumental mental leap in order to imagine tucking into a plate of this feathered creature as a chosen form of substance...never-lone as a 'gourmet treat'....

We have some lovely Lithuanian guests Vida, Audrius, Leonidas and Jolenta, who have have stayed more than once. As they are now resident in Brussels as European Parliamentary Representatives of their country it is an easy drive for a break in the country and a chamce for them to collect some more Champagne from their favourite house...Leonidas is an internationally highly regarded philosopher and a great man to chat to over a glass of red wine!
Delightfully generous, intelligent and and enthusiastic we warmed to these lovely people instantly. Now how pigeon came into the conversation I cannot recall but Leonidas's wife Jolenta waved goodbye promising to cook for us if we were ever in Brussels and pigeon was to be on the menu...she was determined to introduce me to the bird due to my initial horror and disbelief when she had suggested it during the previous evenings chat.
So this is how we ended up on a windy wet evening in Brussels in the home of a Vida and Audrius...a Lithuanian diplomat and her talented artist husband...with Jolenta and Leonidas...sitting down to a feast of PIGEON!

I have to say that I enjoyed was a small bird whose flesh was a gamey pink and it was rich in flavour and very tender...not a bird to be eaten with a knife and fork it was essential to get your hands dirty...coming from a family of bone chewers I do not have a problem with this and enjoyed the team spirit in the whole event...Our hostess Vida did not indulge as she said she had a 'mental issue' with the whole idea...and Oscar who started off very enthusiastically soon wavered admitting that he too had some visual images that kinda outweighed hunger and the subtle social pressure of having to clear his plate...
So if you are game to step onto the wild side and have access to a dressed pigeon to roast then this is how you do it!


1 dressed bird per person
a stick of fresh thyme
an unpeeled clove of garlic
a few juniper berries
duck or goose fat

1. Preheat the oven to 200 deg Celsius
2. Prepare the pigeon by putting the thyme, garlic, berries and bay into the cavity, rub all over generously with fat of your choice and season with salt and pepper.
3. Put into an ovenproof roasting dish breast down briefly and pop into the oven to 'seal' then flip it back over and roast for approximately 10-15 minutes longer.
4. To serve split into 2 symmetrical halves and allow one bird per person.
5. Serve with a side dish of sliced potatoes roasted with chopped fresh aromatic rosemary or a creamy puree of celeriac, potato or parsnip or butternut. 

After the pigeon we snacked on a selection of sweet treats...we had purchased in a gorgeous old Chocolate Shop earlier...chocolate logs made with nougat and Belgium chocolate and Italian Florentine's...and from our generous hosts we sampled a dried apple slice which is a specialty from was all divine...

So spoiled we felt as we went back out into the cold wet night to have a window into another world and share the hospitality of such lovely people with busy interesting lives...and the next day Jolenta had arranged to take us on a tour of Brussels to show us all of her favourite places...coming soon...

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