ONE FOR THE POT:

Fru­gal fare from Tim Mad­dams in the form of a pi­geon, leek and lentil dish

Sporting Shooter - - Contents -

For a healthy, quick meal that makes the most of sea­sonal in­gre­di­ents, you can’t go wrong with my pi­geon, leek and lentil dish.

I have said it be­fore, but I will say it again – pi­geon is sim­ply one of the best meats on the planet. That, cou­pled with its year-round avail­abil­ity and rock-solid eth­i­cal sta­tus, is what makes it my favourite bird to shoot and eat. Now is the per­fect time for a spot of pi­geon roost shoot­ing too, and not only be­cause the trees are bare of leaves but also, I think, be­cause af­ter the busy driven game sea­son, your shoot­ing skills are in tip-top con­di­tion to tackle these fast, of­ten high and chal­leng­ing birds.

The birds at this time of year are ei­ther stuff­ing them­selves with clover and rape, or are hard on the ivy berries; both of these do af­fect the flavour of the breast meat so it’s a good idea to open the crops be­fore cool­ing the birds.

The recipe I have used here is one of sim­plic­ity. It’s fairly healthy and fru­gal, in keep­ing with the sea­son, so it won’t chal­lenge you too much in the kitchen – some­thing I think is im­por­tant when you have spent so much time get­ting hold of the pi­geon in the first place. Yes, there are lentils and yes, there are leeks and no, there are no chips to go with it, but I think you will find the flavours of the pi­geon go nicely with these earthy sea­sonal in­gre­di­ents and some­how make the whole thing just seem right.

The ad­di­tion of a sprin­kling of toasted spices may seem a lit­tle odd, but trust me, they make all the dif­fer­ence.

Cut the leek in half length­ways and wash well un­der run­ning hot wa­ter to re­move any grit and soil. 3. In a large saucepan with a well-fit­ting lid, warm the olive or rape­seed oil. 4. Add the cloves, cider vine­gar, wa­ter and leek and cover. Bring up to a sim­mer then turn right down and leave the leek to cook gen­tly – it’s ready once it’s fall­ing apart. 5. Re­move the cloves and dis­card. Sea­son with salt and pep­per and blend half of the leek and some of the liq­uid in a blender to make a smooth soup-like puree. 6. In a hot fry­ing pan, cook the pi­geon breasts with a lit­tle but­ter and the fresh bay leaves. Don’t be tempted to faff around with them too much, just let them cook. They will need around 2 min­utes on each side – you want them to still feel firm. Place them on a warm plate to rest and turn down the heat. 7. Us­ing the same pan, warm the lentils through and then add the finely chopped gar­lic. Sea­son well and add the rose­mary. Leave on a low heat un­til you are ready to serve. 8. In a small, dry saucepan, toast the seeds and chilli flakes un­til they be­come aro­matic, then place to one side but close to hand. 9. Pour any rest­ing juices from the pi­geon into the lentils and then carve the pi­geon. 10. Now you’re ready to as­sem­ble the dish. Start by split­ting the puree be­tween two plates, then add the lentils and sit the pi­geon on top. Now place some of the slow-cooked leek on the side and sprin­kle over the toasted spices, pa­prika and pars­ley. En­joy.

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