It’s tandoori, but not as you know it: Tim Maddams uses succulent woodpigeon to give the popular spiced dish an intriguing new twist. Serves two.
Recipe for pigeon tandoori
Prep time: 1 hour
Cooking time: 10 minutes
- 4 pigeon breasts
For the tandoori paste
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 dsp curry leaf
- 1 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1 dsp Kashmiri chilli powder
- 1 dsp turmeric powder
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp cider vinegar or lemon juice
For the marinade
- 1 tbsp tandoori paste
- 1 tbsp natural yoghurt
- A little salt
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1cm fresh ginger, finely chopped
For the garnish
- 2 tbsp natural yoghurt
- 1 small garlic clove, very finely chopped, or a little wild garlic
- 1 sprig mint, very finely chopped
- ½ a little gem lettuce, shredded mint and coriander leaves
- 1/8 of a cucumber, diced
- 1 large tomato, diced
- To make the tandoori paste, first toast then blend the whole spices in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar. Add the powdered spices and then the oil and vinegar. If the paste is too dry, add more oil and vinegar.
- Slice the pigeon breasts in half lengthways, add the marinade and mix to cover. Take two skewers and put two breast halves on each. Leave to marinade for at least 20 minutes and ideally a couple of hours.
- Prop the kebabs in the fire — or sling them under a very hot grill or pop them on the barbecue. Cook them briefly until the meat firms up, but try not to overcook them — they should be ready in around three minutes, and will continue to cook a little as they rest for a minute or two.
- Mix the yoghurt, chopped garlic and chopped mint together, and mix the chopped salad ingredients.
- Strip the meat from the kebabs. I like a little extra tandoori paste just scraped across the top of the naan bread, then I scatter over the meat and some chopped garnish, before drizzling with the minty yoghurt sauce. Then wrap it up and enjoy.
About pigeon tandoori
We’re all suckers for a tandoori dish — the punchy yet zingy loveliness that comes from the marinade, the charring from the intense heat… it’s all part of what makes it one of Britain’s favourite dishes.
I have taken the idea of this classic recipe and applied it to my most recent batch of woodpigeon. Although less familiar than the usual suspects, lamb and chicken, this is far more rewarding — and, of course, more Shooting Times friendly. The real work of this recipe comes in two forms; the first making the marinade for the meat, the second getting the barbecue outrageously hot. (Read our tips on hanging woodpigeon to keep them in peak condition.)
I use my firepit to try to replicate the intense tandoori heat from the famous ceramic ovens. The aim is to cook the meat fast, so that it is charred on the outside while remaining moist and not overcooked on the inside. If you don’t have a firepit, a very hot grill will do the trick, too.
The garnish is just as quick to make, using chewy naan breads (shop-bought naans are fine, but I love making my own), a simple mint yoghurt, chopped lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber, and a little garlic and coriander.