JP McMahon: Hunt down some pigeon for an easy feast

Ireland has a rich tradition of roasting wild fowl – pity pigeons are so hard to come by

Pigeon in its natural environment: served with  autumn vegetables, such as   local squash or wild Irish mushrooms

Pigeon in its natural environment: served with autumn vegetables, such as local squash or wild Irish mushrooms

 

Pigeons never seem to be too far from us. They swoop around our towns and cities in search of food. But when we want to find a pigeon worth eating, it seems to be awfully difficult.

Do you have this problem? Maybe you know where to find good game in Dublin or further afield, but other than ordering it through the restaurant, there seems to be a lack of edible pigeons on the market.

Nothing could be more bonding that shooting a few birds out of the sky with your children

It’s surprising given Ireland’s rich tradition of eating pigeons and other wild birds. At Mount Sandel in Coleraine, Co Derry, site of Ireland’s oldest-known settlement (around 7,000 BC), archaeologists have found the bones of plenty of wild birds, from mallard to woodcock to widgeon.

Many people in the country still go hunting for wild game. It’s not something I grew up with, unfortunately, although hopefully I’ll be able to take my kids shooting someday. Nothing could be more bonding that shooting a few birds out of the sky with your children.

Cooking pigeon is extremely easy. Buy it oven-ready (preferably as a crown, which is the breasts attached to the bone without the legs or head) and take the skin off the breasts. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and season the bird and sear both sides of the breast. You’ll have to hold it while frying.

When you’re happy with the colour, add in some butter and thyme and allow the butter to caramelise. Start basting the breasts with the nutty butter. Do this for a few minutes and then transfer the pigeon into an oven preheated to , 200 degrees. Roast for 5-7 minutes. You want medium rare (a meat thermometer should read about 55 degrees).

Serve with some autumn vegetables, such as some local squash or wild Irish mushrooms.  

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