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,


72 Comments Add yours

  1. Your apricot stuffed birds had me drooling 🙂

    So chuffed to hear you are coming to Cape Town. You need the fresh ocean air to cleanse your soul. Luff you lots xxxx

    1. theonlycin says:

      I’m not allowed any contact with the outside world for the first 7 days, Chanty, but thereafter Sundays are visitor days, if you feel like schlepping over the mountain 🙂

      1. Give me a shout when you are allowed visitors 🙂 Will bring magazines and biscuits 🙂

      2. theonlycin says:

        I think it will be on the 24th, but I won’t be able to let you know. Will you ask Colly when you see her? I’d love to see you ❤

  2. Mal says:

    I’ve never had pigeon…I wonder how it tastes?? Have a restful, soothing time in Cape Town, Cindy.. xx

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks Mal; the meat is tough, with a rather gamey taste.

      1. Tammy says:

        Hmmm, that didn’t convince me Cindy. We do have quail here which I quite enjoy.

      2. theonlycin says:

        Have been dying to get my hands on quaill here, Tamy, to no avail!

  3. dinahmow says:

    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.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Because I have a rabbit as a pet it is something I doubt I’d bring myself to eat 😉

  4. Christine says:

    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.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks Chris, who knows, maybe we’re on the same flight on Friday 🙂

  5. Ons sal jou mooi oppas hier xxxx

    1. theonlycin says:

      Ek weet, baie dankie, Amia 🙂

  6. Pseu says:

    I hope your 24 days are a good and positive experience.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks Pseu, I made a typo, it’s actually 28 days – have edited it now. xxx

      1. Pseu says:

        even better 🙂

      2. theonlycin says:

        It’s a long time … quite daunting 🙂

  7. Pussycat44 says:

    The pidgeon recipe sounds, and looks, very appetising. I haven’t eating pidgeon in ages.
    Go well with the detox.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks Pussycat, I’ll take lots of beach photos to bring back for all my friends 🙂

  8. 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

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks Colly, I will keep you in my thoughts. Love and light to you for the Indaba and all my strongest prayers for your surgery. Love you xxx

  9. matron says:

    Happy landing! The pigeon looks delicious!

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks always for your faithful support, atron 🙂

  10. Tandy says:

    pigeons are on my to do list! blessings my twin on the next part of your journey!

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks Twinny, hopefully I get to see you ❤

  11. moconut says:

    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

  12. Judith says:

    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.

    1. theonlycin says:

      I’m not sure if I would do it again with pigeons, Judith, but it was a good lesson in game cooking; if I was ever stranded on an island 🙂

  13. 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!

    1. theonlycin says:

      That was my thought too, Cindy, will be sure to cook chicken that way in the near future.

  14. hotlyspiced says:

    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

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks HS, it was a fun experiment and my friend and I enjoyed the taste experience 🙂

  15. suzicate says:

    You are an unbelievably creative cook…wow, just wow.
    Wishing you the best, Cindy. Hugs.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks SuziCate, hugs right back at you across the seas 🙂

  16. Not sure I have ever really thought about eating pigeon…
    Enjoy your 24 days detox. Look forward to you being back.
    🙂 Mandy xo

    1. theonlycin says:

      I plan to try guineafowl next, thanks Mandy 🙂

  17. 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

    1. theonlycin says:

      The phyllo one was nice, but it could have used a longer cooking time 🙂

  18. Twenty-four days at the beach would probably fix just about anything! Soak up all of those good vibes and come home as right as rain 🙂

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks Hon, I think it’s going to be like bootcamp and am a little nervous 🙂

      1. Oh no! Run the other way! I will be praying for you.

  19. napier says:

    All the best with the next part of your journey. Thinking of you. x

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks Napes, I miss you xxx

  20. dearrosie says:

    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.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks Rosie, I look forward to reading about your Spanish adventure. I am sure you took fab photos as well. Will pop over to your blog shortly xxx

  21. Sous Chef says:

    “You are a braver man than me Gunga Din” – Rudyard Kipling
    Fly safely on Friday and may the rehab restore you, thinking of you.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks Sue, enjoy every minute of the Indaba; I want to see lots of pics ❤

  22. adair says:

    enjoy the detox!

  23. slpmartin says:

    All the best in this next chapter of your life my friend…I will be sending you good vibes and awaiting your successful return.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks Charlie, we’ll just have to bear this in mind: ‘and so it goes’ … xxx

  24. The pigeons came up a treat! All the best with the program, we’ll keep you in our thoughts and prayers, love. xx

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thank you Celia ❤

  25. optie says:

    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.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks Optie, and that for your visit xxx

  26. Sparkle says:

    It has to be done, Go well Cin and will miss your posts, 28 days is so long!

    1. theonlycin says:

      It is long, Sparky, I will miss you xxx

  27. All the best, Cindy, as you go off-piste.

    Wetter is better. Must remember that one.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Ta, Kate, looking forward to reading backwards through all your posts to catch up 🙂

  28. Dee says:

    Wishing you all the best and much strength, remember this is for you!

  29. I have never eaten pigeons, but these are looking delicious! Where can I find out where you are – I would love to come and visit you, Cindy? Hugs and good luck!

    1. theonlycin says:

      Sorry I only saw this message now, Pinkie, would have loved to have seen you ❤

  30. klrs09 says:

    All the best to you — the harder something is to do, the better you are in the end for having done it. Take care.

    1. theonlycin says:

      Thanks Kathy, you too 🙂

  31. Jamie Dedes says:

    Well, you know, I don’t use animal products at all anymore, but I still love you, your writing, and your posts. 😉

    1. theonlycin says:

      *winks back at Jamie*

  32. I’ve used to cook squab but none with the mature pigeon before, such a tricky threat to make it tender enought to chew
    Btw, the apricot stuffed pigeon is preety damn good idea
    looks yummy!

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