This is good on its own but a great accompaniment for roast meats and sausages – even better with some creamy mashed potatoes and a little gravy! If you can’t make the pigeon stock then veal stock is a good alternative. The foraged leaves really make a difference – the stinging nettles add a lovely fresh spinach-like taste, the wood sorrel with its gentle acidity goes well with the peas. If you can’t obtain these wild ingredients then replace the nettles with spinach and the sorrel with flat leaf parsley.
1 Baby Gem Lettuce, halved lengthways then quartered
2 cups Garden Peas, fresh or frozen
1 small bunch spring onions, roughly chopped
2/3 cup chopped Beechwood smoked bacon lardons
1 small handful young stinging nettles, washed and spin-dried
1 small handful wood sorrel, washed and spin-dried
1 1/4 cups wood pigeon stock (or veal stock)
3 tbsp India Pale Ale
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
To make the pigeon stock:
The best part of a pigeon is the breast, the rest of the bird is very fiddly to eat but
is ideal for making a stock with. The gamey flavour goes so well with the peas
and lettuce in this dish.
You will need:
1kg (2.2lbs) pigeon carcasses (bones and meat)
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stick, chopped
1 brown onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped
4 juniper berries
1 bay leaf
1 blade of mace
1 bouquet garni (thyme and flat leaf parsley sprigs wrapped in muslin)
6 1/4 cups water
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
1. Preheat the oven to 220°C. In a roasting tin, toss the pigeon carcasses in the oil
and cook for 20-25 minutes.
2. Transfer the cooked pigeon carcasses to a large saucepan then add the
remaining ingredients. Bring to the boil over a moderate heat. Reduce to a gentle
simmer and cook for about 3 hours. Remove any scum from the top of the pan
from time to time.
3. The liquid will have reduced by now, remove the bouquet garni then strain the
contents of the pan through a fine sieve into a bowl. Leave to cool and remove
any fat from the surface of the stock. The stock, once cooled, can be stored in the
fridge for 2 to 3 days in an airtight container, or frozen until needed.
To cook the peas, spring onions and bacon:
Render the bacon in a hot frying pan with a tablespoon of oil and a tablespoon of
butter. When the meat is nicely coloured add the spring onions and briefly cook
for about a minute until soft. Next add the peas followed by the stock. Cook the
peas for about five minutes until soft. Don’t cook them for too long otherwise
they’ll lose their vibrant green colour. Shortly before serving add the nettle
leaves and sorrel. The nettles will lose their sting in about 30 seconds of cooking.
Check the seasoning.
To braise the lettuce:
Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in another frying pan then add the
lettuce, gently brown the sides for a couple of minutes but don’t overcook. The
lettuce should be nicely coloured. Next add the beer to the pan followed by a
pinch of salt and white pepper. Simmer until the beer has reduced slightly. Pour
some of the beer over the lettuce using a spoon so it can absorb the flavour.
Serve the peas, spring onions and bacon in the pigeon stock. Top with the