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How to Cook Pigeon

Subject: Cooking

Description: Edwardian recipes for cooking pigeon

Posted by David Caldwell on 25/01/15 at 20:03

Pigeons are so prevalent in our town and cities they are now labelled as pests.  However one hundred years ago Pigeons were labelled as delicious as the following extract from a recipe book testifies. 

Taken from 'Cassells Shilling Cookery' published in 1913.


Tame pigeons should be cooked as soon as possible after they are killed, as they very quickly lose their flavour.  Wood-pigeons and rock-pigeons, on the contrary, should be allowed to hang a few days before they are dressed.  Although these birds may be said to be in season all the year round, they are at their best from Midsummer to Michaelmas.  In choosing them, it should be remembered that dark-coloured birds are thought to possess the highest flavour, and light-coloured birds to be the most delicate. Young birds are, of course, always to be preferred to old ones. When the legs are large and deeply coloured, the pigeon is old, and will very likely be tough. House pigeons are the best, and woodpigeons the largest. Rock – pigeons are inferior in quality to both the others. Old pigeons are best stewed.

Pigeons, Fried.

Pluck, singe, and draw two young pigeons, and truss them as if for boiling. Spread a little clarified butter over them, and dredge them well with flour. Lay two or three rashers of bacon in a stew pan, place the pigeons upon these, season with salt and pepper, and turn them about until they are nicely browned all over. Take them up, drain them well, dip them into some frying-batter, and let them be entirely covered with it. Fry in hot fat until they are brightly browned, and serve on a hot dish. Garnish the dish with fried parsley, and send gravy to table in a tureen.

Pigeon, Grilled.

Split the pigeon open in half, cutting it clean through the breast and back. Grill over a clear fire, occasionally moistening the halves with a little butter. Pepper and salt the bird while cooking.

If wanted devilled, sprinkle it plentifully, while cooking, with a mixture composed of equal parts of cayenne, black pepper, and salt. 

Time to grill, from five to ten minutes. 

Pigeons, Piquant.

Slice a large onion and put it into a shallow dish with two bay-leaves, half a teaspoonful of peppercorns, and a wineglassful of vinegar. Lay two pigeons in this marinade or pickle, and turn and baste them twice a day for two days. If the birds are old they must remain in the marinade a day or two longer. Take them up, wipe them dry, and lard the breasts evenly, then put them into a saucepan with on ounce of butter, and turn them about over a moderate fire until they are brightly and equally browned. Lift them out, stir a spoonful of flour in with the butter, and mix it briskly with a wooden spoon until it begins to colour, then add foul' ounces of fat bacon cut into small pieces, the liver of the birds, a cupful of stock or water, the strained juice of half a lemon with an inch or two of the rind, and a little pepper, salt, and grated nutmeg. Let this sauce boil, then put in the pigeons, cover them closely, and let them stew for half an hour. Serve the birds on a hot dish, with the sauce poured round them.

Time to stew, about an hour.

Sufficient for two persons.

Pigeons, Roast.

Pluck, singe, and draw a couple of young pigeons, and truss them firmly. Mince the livers, and mix with them two ounces of finely-grated bread-crumbs, two ounces of fresh butter, or, if preferred, finely-shred beef suet, a shallot finely minced, a teaspoonful of shred parsley, and a little salt, pepper, and grated nutmeg. Fill the birds with this forcemeat, fasten a slice of fat bacon over the breast of each, and roast before a clear fire. Make a sauce by mixing a little water, or, better still, stock, with the gravy which drops from the birds, and boiling it with a little thickening; season it with pepper, salt, and chopped parsley. Pigeons are sometimes carved on a toast, and brown gravy and bread sauce sent to table with them.

Time to roast, twenty to twenty-five minutes.

Sufficient for two persons.

Pigeons, Stewed.

Cut each pigeon into four pieces and brown them in 'a frying-pan, Stew the pieces gently in a little stock, with some small button onions also browned in a frying-pan, Thicken the stock with a little brown thickening, removing the pieces of pigeon first, and warming them up in the gravy afterwards.

 Seasoning, pepper and salt.

A mushroom stewed with them is a great improvement. A spoonful of sherry may be added. Be careful to remove the grease. 

Pigeons, Stuffed and Roasted.

Pluck, draw, and singe two plump young pigeons, and fill them with a forcemeat made as follows:-Mince the livers finely, and mix with them the same quantity of finely-sliced suet and grated breadcrumbs. Add a little pepper, salt, and grated nutmeg, a heaped table-spoonful of chopped parsley, and a pinch of powdered thyme, and moisten the whole with beaten yolk of egg.

Truss the birds firmly, tie thin slices of bacon over the breasts, and put them down to a clear fire. To make the gravy, mix the droppings from the birds with half a cupful of boiling stock or water, add a tablespoonful of sherry, and a little of the forcemeat, season with salt, cayenne, and grated nutmeg, and thicken the whole with the yolk of egg well beaten. Serve the birds on a hot dish, with the sauce poured round them, and a little bread sauce in a tureen.

Time to roast the pigeons, from twenty to thirty minutes.

Sufficient for two persons. 

Pigeons, Trussed.

Pigeons need to be very carefully plucked and cleaned, and they should, if possible, be drawn as soon as they are killed.

They are very good roasted with a slice of bacon over the breast, and a vine-leaf under the bacon. To truss for roasting :-

Cut off the head and neck, cut off the toes at the first joint, and wash the birds well.  Dry them carefully, truss the wings over the back, and pass a skewer through the wings and body. The gizzard may be cleaned and put under one of the wings.

To truss for boiling:-

Cut off the legs at the first joint, put the legs into the body, and skewer the pinions back.

Keywords: pigeon recipes, how to cook pigeon