This roast stuffed pigeon recipe is a delicious, simple recipe that will change your perception of pigeons forever after.
In many parts of the world, pigeons are either viewed as agricultural pests or urban “rats with wings”. I find that to be a rather uncharitable description of a sweet animal that doesn’t do much besides cooing and eating.
There’s one other way to see pigeons, which is how they’re viewed where I come from: as food. I grew up eating pigeons on special occasions. They were a real treat; a celebration meal we had whenever we visited my grandparents in rural Egypt. My grandparents raised pigeons, along with a bunch of other animals, on the rooftop of his house. If you don’t know, rooftops in Egypt are often used as storage spaces, places to raise animals and sometimes even cultivate crops for family use. It rarely rains there and the rooftop usually remains very dry year-round, so you can put all your junk up there, or if you’re an enterprising homesteader type with limited space otherwise, you can raise chickens, ducks, rabbits and, of course, pigeons.
My grandmother used to take me up to the pigeon coop on the roof which had little windows and open doors to allow the pigeons to fly wherever they wanted throughout the day. They always came home to nest and sometimes to feed on the generous amounts of grains and other foods she left for them. Sometimes she would take a few live pigeons out and I was allowed to hold them gently until we took them downstairs into the hallway where my grandfather slaughtered them by hand. It never struck me as strange to see my grandparents handle the animals with so much love and tenderness one moment and the next to kill them unceremoniously the next. It seemed like simply a fact of life: you can love animals and still love to eat them too.
Fast forward thirty-something years and I’ve been living in Western countries for the past few years where the supermarkets rarely stock anything beyond beef, chicken, pork, 2-3 types of frozen fish, and occasionally lamb, duck and turkey. You might think this sounds like a huge variety, but that’s nothing compared to some parts of the world. I finally recently found one butchery/specialty meat store where they sell pigeons! I was ecstatic! Even though the little birds were quite pricy (especially compared to Egypt where they cost so little) I had to get some and make them at home.
My next obstacle, however, was convincing my traditional, European, and decidedly picky eater husband to eat a bird he typically associated with crowded and unsanitary city squares, scavenging on tourists’ discarded leftovers. After much convincing, begging, manipulation, I managed to get him to agree to at least try the pigeon.
I bought two pigeons, stuffed them with rice and roast them in the oven. Now my husband is a stuffed pigeon enthusiast and he calls this one of his favourite dishes! The experiment was a success. Experiment rating: 9/10; the only problem is that it’s quite expensive and can only work as an occasional, celebratory meal.
- 2 Pigeons, otherwise known as “squab” in some places, but essentially the same bird
- 3/4 cup uncooked long-grain rice
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
- 1/4 cup dried sour cherries or other sour berries or currants
- 1 small chopped onion, you can use any type
- Small pinch of cinnamon, cumin, ground black pepper and dried powdered coriander
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt to taste
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (if you want to convert to Celsius, check out the conversions section of this site).
- In a small pot, fry the onion in a tablespoon of oil, add some salt, cinnamon, cumin, black pepper, and coriander.
- Add the rice and fry a little longer then add the water according to package instructions. Usually you’ll need to add double the amount of water to the rice.
- Infuse the saffron threads in a couple of tablespoons of hot water until the water becomes yellow. Add the infusion and the threads to the rice.
- Bring to boil on medium heat. Add the sour cherries. Cover and cook on low until the rice is tender, 15-18 minutes.
- After the rice has cooked let it cool for 10 minutes.
- In the meantime, rub some of the same spices, salt and olive oil all over the pigeons. Gently separate the skin from the flesh without tearing the skin. Get the spice rub and salt under the skin. If the skin tears a little, don’t worry, it will still be delicious. Make sure to cover the exposed breast, though, or it might get too dry in the oven.
- With a small teaspoon, stuff some of the rice mixture under the skin. Keep adding more until the skin is stretched over the rice stuffing. Stuff the cavity with the remaining rice.
- In a small roasting pan or oven-safe dish, line the pigeons and pour a cup of water in the bottom.
- Roast for 45 minutes, then turn on the oven broiler for another 5 minutes or until the skin is golden brown and crispy.
- Let rest 5-10 minutes and enjoy!
Have you ever tried pigeon? How was it cooked? Did you like it? I’d love to know in the comments!
Want to try other adventurous recipes? Check these out:
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