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Woodpigeon breast recipe with onion and bacon

Cai ap Bryn makes woodpigeon the star of this hearty dish. Serves two.

woodpigeon breast recipe

Woodpigeon breast


  • 2 tsp butter
  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • 40ml red wine
  • 40ml port
  • 350ml punchy pigeon or beef stock
  • 2 tsp tomato purée
  • 4 rashers streaky bacon
  • 4 pigeon breasts
  • 400g mashed buttery potatoes


  1. Melt the butter on a medium heat, add the onion and cook until soft. Turn up the heat and add the red wine and port. Cook out the alcohol for a couple of minutes before adding the stock and tomato purée. Keep on a medium-high heat until the jus reduces by half, then season to taste.
  2. In a frying pan, fry off the bacon until crisp. You can either fry the rashers whole or cut them up into strips. Once the bacon is fried, set aside but do not drain the pan or remove the bacon fat — this is full of flavour and ideal for frying the pigeon breasts in.
  3. While the pan is hot, place your pigeon breasts and leave for roughly 45 seconds. You want to get a good colour and caramelisation on the breast — the more you move it, the less contact it has on the pan. After 45 seconds, flip over and repeat. Once done, set aside to rest for 5 minutes. The pigeon should feel firm on the surface but nice and spongy when pressed down. If you have a temperature probe, 52°C is ideal.
  4. To serve, place the mashed potatoes in a dish and arrange the sliced-up pigeon around it. Season, then add the bacon and pour over the rich onion jus. A few winter greens and a good glass of red wine will pair very nicely with this.

Thoughts on this woodpigeon breasts recipe

The seasons have definitely shifted; the crisp, clean air and the drop in temperature signal the start of the shooting season. I would be the first to admit that I prefer deerstalking and pigeon shooting in the winter months. I have also never taken to driven game days, favouring a walked-up rough shoot on my permissions instead. I only take pheasant for my own pot, so this method is just perfect for that. (Read how to prepare and dress woodpigeon.)

The change in colours adds to the ambiance when out rambling in the countryside. Where many people long for summer days, I prefer wrapping up warm for lovely walks, country pubs and having a comforting hot meal at the end of a long day. I always find the cold makes you appreciate the little luxuries even more.

At this time of year there are still quite a few pigeons about. I normally concentrate on a bit of roost shooting for the pot. You seldom get great numbers as you would when you run a decoy pattern, but it’s a challenge and a lot of fun nonetheless. As the evenings draw in, it’s nice to have a flask of coffee on the side and take some time out to shoot as the birds return to the trees. A moment of peace is good for the soul and being out in nature certainly recharges the batteries. And you’re doing your bit for crop protection to boot.

This recipe came about after one such roost shoot. I got in late and decided to raid the fridge. I was so pleased with it that I have had it a number of times since. I was never a fan of liver and bacon — I tried but couldn’t get into the texture of liver — however, this version uses woodpigeon instead. If you like a good plate of food that screams comfort, this is the one for you.