Roadkill pigeon pie

Roadkill pigeon pie

By
From
A Year of Practiculture
Serves
2
Photographer
Rohan Anderson & Kate Berry

I love pigeon, especially feral pigeon, which is an introduced pest. Sometimes I’ll get asked to shoot some pigeons on a farm when their numbers get out of hand, or maybe I’ll accidentally run one over on the road. Either way, meat is meat – I’ll either shoot it, run over it or rip its head off. That sounds a bit harsh, but you can’t cook a live pigeon. They just don’t cooperate.

The idea of a pie for pigeon was a pure alliteration. It just sounded good, so I figured it must be right. The first time I made this pie was when I was asked to catch four feral pigeons in a chicken house. I’d arrived to pick up an unwanted rooster and noticed the four birds happily living in the pen with the chickens, getting plump from eating all the chicken feed. The property manager was glad to rid the pen of the pigeons. The only problem was that I didn’t really arrive knowing I’d have to catch pigeons in a pen. All I had was my cap and some ninja swiftness. After a bit of agile hilarity, I caught all four birds and took them home.

The drive back was full of wild thoughts about how to cook them. I was going to skewer them on a stick and roast them over an open fire but in the end I decided to make a more civilised meal. I also caused a bit of a storm by involving my daughters in the killing process. I wrote a story about the day on my blog and boy, did it cause a stink! Which is good, because it got people talking about the meat paradox. Should we be more in touch with how our meat is produced? Should we be aware and experience the killing of a sentient being in order to have the right to eat it? These are serious questions that need to be considered by many of us.

What I learned from the experience is first, that many people are confronted by the reality that an animal must be killed to ‘transform’ it into a meat product, and secondly, that teaching young kids this reality is apparently a no-no. Well, obviously I disagree on the latter point. It’s only a Western cultural approach to hide certain realities from ourselves. In other cultures it’s very much understood. In Morocco, for example, you go to a food market, pick your live chicken and then it’s killed and processed before your very eyes. Imagine that at a supermarket! My kids have a total understanding of where meat comes from; they’re not scared or grossed out. They understand the reality of meat and I hope, as they grow into adults, these experiences will help them make informed decisions as consumers.

The best thing I learned about this process is that pigeon pie is delicious. I now jump at the opportunity to get my hands on these tasty little birds.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
60ml olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 wild pigeon, spatchcocked, (see tip)
splash pedro ximenez
525g tomato passata
250ml red wine
8-10 whole cloves
handful parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon hot pimenton
salt, to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
60g My chorizo, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
sesame or poppy seeds, for sprinkling (optional)
chips or wedges, to serve

Shortcrust pastry

Quantity Ingredient
100g butter, chilled and diced
200g plain flour, sifted, plus extra for dusting
1 small egg, lightly beaten

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Heat half the olive oil (a generous glug) in a frying pan over low heat and gently sweat the onion and garlic for 10–15 minutes. The longer you cook them, the sweeter they get. Transfer to a flameproof casserole dish and set aside.
  3. Using the same frying pan, add the remaining olive oil (another glug) and brown the pigeon for about 1 minute each side. The idea is to seal the meat, not cook it.
  4. Splash over the sherry then transfer with the pigeon to the casserole dish with the onions and garlic. Add the passata, red wine, cloves, parsley, pimentón, salt, pepper and chorizo. Add the lid, pop in the oven and cook for 30 minutes, then reduce the temp to 150°C and cook for 1 hour.
  5. Meanwhile, to make the shortcrust pastry, whizz the butter and flour in a food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. With the processor still running, slowly pour in the egg and let the processor do all the work for you. The mixture should bind together to form a lump of dough. If it doesn’t quite pull together, add small amounts of chilled water until it does. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  6. The meat should now be tender and soft. Remove the dish from the oven and increase the temp to 220°C. Remove the bird from the casserole dish and the meat from the bones. Be sure not to leave any tiny bones in the mix! While you’re pulling the meat from the bird, set the dish on the stove top over high heat to reduce the gravy. Return the meat to the dish and continue to reduce the gravy until it’s thick, not runny.
  7. Transfer the mixture to a pie dish. Roll out 250 g of the shortcrust pastry to cover the dish or cut strips of pastry and weave them over the filling. Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with some sesame or poppy seeds, if desired.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the pastry is crunchy.
  9. Serve with chips or wedges.

Tip:

  • To spatchcock the birds I use a pair of scissors. I place the under blade through the bottom hole (where I pulled the guts out) and poke it out at the neck. I then cut through the breastplate (sternum) cleanly and open the birds out wide to cook evenly on both sides.
Tags:
rohan
anderson
practiculture
whole
larder
love
sustainable
sustainability
grow
harvest
forage
hunt
seasonal
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