I’m not sure how we drifted to the topic, but my doctor mentioned that his dad is a hobby-hunter and an excellent cook, being an Italian, this follows. My envy at his access to game lead to my being given thirteen frozen wild pigeons. I envisaged receiving a clingwrapped package of miniature versions of the plucked chickens I buy at the supermarket. My donor had not been as generous, however, and I got the birds as they died, all appendages intact and full-feathered. My staff were totally unfazed by this and were quite excited at giving me a lesson at the squeamish business of getting the pigeons naked without being daunted by the arduous business of plucking and cleaning, although there was some debate about the best plucking method.

Anyway, it didn’t take long and the capable pair had the buck naked birds coming thick and fast.

I made a briny bath of sea salt, juniper berries and bay leaves and left the clean little birds to soak for a few hours, as instructed by Our Alice. I had decided to invite my friend Brian, a photographer who is currently visiting us from Cape Town, to join me for a tasting menu of three pigeon dishes made in three different ways, served simply with a crust French loaf to mop up the juices.

Firstly, the most boring take: mainly because I had a glut of tomatoes and had spent Monday making up a big batch of tomato sauce for bottling; I made a cacciatore style casserole. Niki Segent’s tome ‘ The Flavour Thesaurus’ is rather scathing on this dish, saying “ Tomato and chicken are the controlling partnership in chicken tikka masala and in chicken cacciatore, or hunter’s stew – which is not, sadly, the invention of pockmarked Sicilian peasants , returning home with a brace of feral chickens slung over their waistcoats, but an English recipe from the 1950s , taught to nice girls by their mothers in the hope they’d bag the sort of chap who’d be neither too unadventurous not too suspiciously cosmopolitan to a slightly herbed slop of chicken in tomato sauce.” Not too promising a take on the dish, but I fried them lightly with diced bacon and packed them snugly under a blanket of my sauce. Slow cooked in my little casserole dish, in a bain marie, they were quite good and nicely robust for winter fare.

Next was the recipe of my own doing and the one I was most excited about. I stuffed Turkish apricots with ground ginger biscuits soaked in port wine and sandwiched them inside the birds’ cavities. I gave the skins a rub of masala, before wrapping them in bacon and sticking them in a 180C oven to roast to a crispy finish. I really like the way they turned out and the camera seemed to like them too.

My final take was a traditional poultry treatment; I did a lemon & herb seasoning, browned the meat quickly over hot heat and made phyllo blankets to seal in the seasoning. A successful dish and most likely the one that would go down best with folk with less exotic and adventurous eating habits. This one would also be great served at room temperature at a picnic lunch.

All in all, we had a lovely meal and a good evening of reminiscence and giggles, thanks Dr V, and thanks too to your dad. Our final verdict is that ‘wetter is better’ and they are most successful cooked casserole style over a long period in a liquid of some sort.
Now for an announcement: I am leaving on Friday for Cape Town, where I will take a detox programme lasting 28 days at a beach rehab facility. I doubt I will have access to the internet whilst there, so don’t be alarmed if I don’t visit blogs or reply to comments.
Bon voyage and take care.
Much love,



  1. Yep! The apricot version gets my vote. Long ago (when I lived in England) I used to do rabbit like this. Oh!God! Now you have me drooling!
    Go well, Cin.

  2. I am pretty sure these recipes would work well on chicken too – I still can’t even think about the eating pigeon thing!
    Good Luck Cin – take care of yourself and remember you are worthy of all that is good.

  3. WOW! Pigeons?? I cannot bring myself to eat anything smaller than a full grown chicken! Thank goodness for Our Alice and her “handlanger” there!! 😉 I will be there for you whenever you need me. Pity about my surgery coming up and the antisocial “recovery” but I will be here and will see you whenever possible. I really believe that this is the way for you to go my love. You will get all the help you need. And being beside the ocean in itself will be healing……I am proud of you and I love you xx

  4. It’s a good place Cin, a friend of mine spent time there for perscription tab addiction and it turned her around, helped her not only give up the meds but also to become assertive and not let people walk all over her, it was a beautiful thing to see xxx take care and be strong xx

  5. You did a great job with the pigeons. Now I wonder, will you pluck them yourself next time? 🙂

    All the best in Cape Town – hope you’ll be coming back feeling much better.

  6. Best wishes to you! Lovely recipes that – I think – would adapt quite nicely to a simple and very tame boneless, skinless chicken breast. I’m thinking of the apricot-ginger snap combination wrapped inside a pounded breast rolled up cordon bleu style and baked with the bacon wrapper. Thank you!

  7. I love how you took what was given to you and you experimented and had a great time it seems producing three different dishes. I know you say the slow-cooked casserole style of recipe works best but I love the look of your recipe with the little birds wrapped in bacon and stuffed with apricots. I do hope the detox program is of great benefit to you and that you find it a holiday of sorts! xx

  8. Oh, my, you are a brave soul.. I’d have such a squeamish time getting them ready. I sighed with relief when I scrolled down to the parts that I recognize.. a freshly prepared piece of meat ready to cook (guess I’m a city girl). I think I’d try the phyllo one first.. that looks like it would steam nicely in the little package you’ve made! xo Smidge

  9. Hi Cin
    I haven’t popped in here for a while because I was walking in Spain. and gave myself a total holiday from blogs and blogging and all things to do with computers…

    I can’t imagine being given a bunch of dead pigeons with their feathers and eyes and all their body parts. Does pigeon taste like chicken or is it more gamey?

    Good luck for your bootcamp. I look forward to reading your stories when you return. You know how to tell wonderful stories.

  10. I don’t think I could eat pigeon but well done for three creative dishes. All the best for your stay in Cape Town, hope it brings you healing, peace and inspiration for your future.


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