It isn’t going to win a prize for culinary authenticity but this pan-Asian inspired pigeon dish will become a real favourite, says Tim Maddams. Serves two to four.
Pigeon breast is a favourite of mine and I am making an effort to get more of Asia into my kitchen. Accordingly, I’ve been loosely adapting many classic dishes from China, Japan, Thailand and Malaysia into quick and simple suppers, like this pigeon and fried rice recipe.
They tick the ‘Asian and tasty’ box but admittedly I don’t know whether chefs who are actually from those countries would recognise my efforts. I like to think, though, they might quite like my take on things.
Pigeon is absolutely superb but you have to get it right and the definition of ‘right’ changes with the pigeon, the dish and the season. Old pigeon will be a little tougher, while younger ones will be sweeter. The very best pigeon are those that have been shot by someone who knows what they’re doing and treats the game properly from the moment it hits the ground.
The breasts should be touched with heat, but not overcooked. Blue is a bit too far the other way. Aim for somewhere between medium and medium rare and you should be more or less on the money.
This recipe is a riff on Malaysian fried rice — made with Thai shrimp paste — and Japanese seven-spice pigeon that is simply seared and sliced. I then make a massive faux pas in terms of culinary authenticity by failing to top the dish with toasted chopped peanuts and instead opt for toasted sesame seeds and a drizzle of sticky Chinese-style soy.
If you don’t have any pigeon to hand, the meat element can be changed to suit the gamebag — duck breast or partridge breast and even grouse or hare will all work well. For me, though, nothing beats pigeon.
Do make sure you have a cold case of Chang beer in the fridge and some prawn crackers to keep you going while cooking.
Pigeon and fried rice
For the pigeon
- 6 or 8 plump skinless pigeon breasts
- 1 tsp seven-spice powder
For the seven-spice powder
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1 tsp sichuan peppercorns
- 1 Star anise
- 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
For the soy
- 50ml dark soy sauce
- 15g sugar (Ideally light brown or coconut sugar)
- A dash of rice wine vinegar
For the sesame
- 2 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
For the rice
- 2 cups Jasmine rice
- 4 cups water
- Pinch of salt
For the rice paste
- 1in ginger root, peeled, roughly chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 4 spring onions, chopped
- 2 tsp Thai shrimp paste
- Up to 2 tsp Chinese chilli oil (depending on desired heat)
To put it all together
- 4 spring onions, chopped
- 1in ginger, shredded
- After preparing all the ingredients, start on the rice. Rinse the rice in a sieve and place in a smallish pan. Add the water and a pinch of salt. Put a lid on the pan and place it on to a high heat, stirring occasionally until it comes to a rapid simmer. Reduce the heat and leave it to cook with the lid on for eight minutes. Turn off the heat, stir, replace the lid and leave for at least 15 minutes before removing the lid and breaking up or fluffing up the rice.
- Season the pigeon breasts with a teaspoon of the seven-spice mix and then sear in a hot pan with a little oil for about 90 seconds on each side. Set them aside to rest. If they are a little underdone, they can be tossed in with the hot rice to help them finish off. Slice the pigeon breasts lengthways while still warm, to roughly the thickness of a £1 coin.
- Heat a large wok or frying pan and add a tablespoon of cooking oil. Mix the rice paste ingredients together and add a tablespoon of it to the pan, sti,r and quickly add the rice. Stir once or twice then allow it to cook on a high heat for a few minutes. Turn the heat off and stir the rice. Add the pigeon to the rice, along with half the chopped spring onions and ginger. Stir again. Serve in bowls, topped with chopped onions and ginger, a drizzle of the sticky soy sauce and a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds.
This looks like a daunting recipe, but making the rice paste, soy and spice mix in advance will speed it up.