“Sometimes we chefs forget how difficult it is to make sauces at home. In our restaurants, of course, we have access to all the lovely stocks and sauces. However, this sauce is restaurant quality but easy to make at home. It is a great sauce to go with the pigeon and cherries work incredibly well with the mild gamy flavour of the pigeon. If you can’t get hold of fresh cherries, marinated ones work fine, too.”
Roast Pigeon and Cherry Sauce
- 4 oven-ready wood pigeons, with the wishbones removed
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
- 4 rosemary sprigs
- 4 thyme sprigs
- Olive oil
- 100g butter, plus an extra knob for finishing
- 200ml full-bodied red wine
- 50ml port or kirsch
- 350ml chicken stock
- 200g cherries, stoned
- 300g wilted spinach, hot, to serve
- Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Preheat the oven to 200˚C Fan/220˚C/Gas Mark 7. Season the pigeons all over and in the cavities with salt and pepper, then divide the garlic, rosemary and thyme among the cavities. Truss the legs together with kitchen string.
Heat two large well-seasoned, ovenproof sauté or frying pans over a medium-high heat, then add a good splash of olive oil. When it is hot, add the pigeons and colour all over for three minutes. Add the butter and when it is foaming, baste the birds.
Transfer the pans to the oven and roast the pigeons for six minutes, which should give you pink meat. Remove the pans from the oven, un-truss the birds and tip the juices from all the cavities into one of the pans, then set the birds aside to rest, covered with kitchen foil, while you finish the recipe.
Remove the excess fat from the pan, then return it to the heat. Add the wine and port, stirring to deglaze the pan, and boil until the liquid evaporates. Add the game stock and continue boiling to reduce it by half, then stir in the cherries. Reduce the heat and simmer until they are soft. Swirl in the knob of butter, then adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary.
Serve the roasted pigeons with cherry sauce and the wilted spinach alongside.
Extract taken from Tom Kitchin’s Meat & Game by Tom Kitchin (Absolute Press, £26)
Photography © Marc Millar