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Pigeon carpaccio

This pigeon carpaccio recipe doesn't need cooking but requires at least 12 hours to marinate and needs to be frozen for an hour before serving

pigeon carpaccio

Pigeon has to be my “desert island” meat. It wins hands down. For a while, beef and lamb were up there, but the free-range nature of the woodpigeon and the fact that it is wild are comforting thoughts indeed. And the best bit, as you all know, is that it doesn’t have a close season.

Being a lean red meat, pigeon lends itself well to experimentation. After some playing around in the kitchen a few years ago, this pigeon recipe is now a firm favourite on the Hunter Gather Cook menu, along with the venison version.

Carpaccio is a relatively recent taste sensation, having only been with us since the 1950s. It was born when Countess Amalia Nani Mocenigo walked into Harry’s Bar in Venice (also the home of the Bellini cocktail) and informed the proprietor that her doctor had recommended she only eat raw meat. The dish that then-owner Giuseppe Cipriani produced was so-named because its colours reminded him of the paintings by Venetian artist Vittore Carpaccio. This recipe does require a bit of preparation: at least 12 hours in a marinade, but 24 hours if possible. Alternatively, if you wish to do it immediately, you can smoke the pigeon over smouldering oak or sawdust for an hour to give it a pleasant smoky flavour.

Wild ingredients are a great addition to this recipe and you can often find some wonderful matches in the hedgerows that can be conveniently collected during a day’s decoying.

The three wild additions for the carpaccio are horseradish (both young leaves and the fiery root), wood sorrel or common sorrel (for sharpness), and elderberries. A word on these: the young leaves of horseradish have a nice pepperiness to them and a slight bitterness, which makes a good substitute for rocket. Be aware that elderberries contain minute traces of cyanide, which is broken down by cooking. A small handful of raw berries is harmless, however.

Ingredients for marinade:

  • 6 pigeon breasts
  • 150ml of olive oil
  • 50ml of cider vinegar
  • 2 cloves of garlic (roughly chopped)
  • 1 carrot (roughly chopped)
  • 1 stick of celery (roughly chopped)
  • 1 small red onion (roughly chopped)
  • Black pepper (a good twist)
  • 1tsp of salt
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • 4 bay leaves


  1. Mix everything together in a bowl, then cover and refrigerate overnight. Put the pigeon breasts in the freezer for one hour before assembling the carpaccio so that you can slice them wafer thin.

Ingredients for the carpaccio:

  • 1/2 a horseradish root (grated)
  • A handful of young horseradish leaves (alternatively, rocket or watercress work well)
  • 1 cluster of elderberries
  • Parmesan shavings
  • Wood sorrel
  • Gherkins (chopped)
  • Capers
  • Olive oil
  • A squeeze of lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Arrange all of the ingredients on a large plate together with the wafer thin slices of marinated pigeon. Season to taste and serve with fine red wine and crusty bread.