Pigeon Breast en-Croûte and Game Pâté:
I really don’t know why I don’t buy pigeon breast more often. Tiny, tasty morsels which are actually quite healthy – each breast has around 135 calories depending on weight. And, like most game they are low in fat and high in protein. They are super easy to cook – they take around 2 minutes to sear on each side and then just need to rest for 5 minutes before you eat them. And, they are really good value for money, yet have quite an ‘exotic’ flavour. In pastry cases, as pigeon breasts en-croûte, they stay moist and tender and, I believe, look quite elegant.
When Wild and Game sent me a pack of samples recently there were pigeon breasts to use and I decided to experiment by making pigeon breast en-croûte. The aim, to simplify cooking and serving and to produce something that would work equally well as a starter or main course. It took me a few tries to perfect my recipe. The basis of most en-croûte recipes is pastry of course, but you will often find a mushroom duxelles and sometimes a wrapper of ham or spinach. I’ve tried a number of variations on that theme and come to the conclusion that with the rich, gamey flavour of pigeon, you really don’t need anything other than the mushroom duxelles which just helps to keep the pigeon breasts moist and tender.
I have to confess, I didn’t try making pastry. Instead, I used bought puff pastry (all butter), which worked brilliantly and made this dish very quick and simple.
I also made enough duxelles for four people. If you don’t want to make four pigeon breasts en-croûte, then the mixture keeps well in the fridge and I like it as a pasta sauce with a little crème fraîche. So, the recipe allows for about 4 times the amount you will need for pigeon en-croûte for one! You can make the duxelles up in advance too, which means this dish can be put together and brought to the table in around 15 minutes. Not bad for a mid-week supper perhaps?
Here’s how to do it
An easy way to ensure that pigeon breasts don't dry out - Pigeon Breasts cooked in a pastry wrapper and topped with a mushroom duxelles remain moist and tender
- 250 g Mushrooms
- 2 shallots
- 50 g butter
- A handful of fresh thyme leaves picked from the stalk
- 4 pigeon breasts
- Half a pack of puff pastry
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- Duxelles mixture
- Chop the mushroom and shallots very finely.
- Melt the butter in a large frying pan.
- Add the shallots and cook gently for 10 minutes till transparent and soft.
- Turn the heat up to medium and add the mushrooms and thyme leaves.
- Continue to cook until the mixture reduces down and resembles a pate.
- Allow to cool.
- Season the pigeon breasts well with salt and pepper.
- Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the pigeon breasts. Sear on both sides for between 90 seconds. Remove from the pan and put to one side.
- Preheat the oven to 195C
- Roll out the pastry on a floured board.
- Cut rectangles which are around 1cm larger all round than each pigeon breast.
- For four pigeon breasts you will need eight rectangles of pastry.
- Lay out four of the rectangles and put a pigeon breast in the centre of each rectangles. Top each one with a teaspoon of mushroom duxelles.
- Beat the egg gently and use it to paint a border around each of the rectangles.
- Top each rectangle with a second one.
- Use a fork to crimp the edges of each one, then baste the pastry tops with egg glaze.
- Put the pastries on a well-greased baking tray and into the oven.
- Bake for 10 minutes at 195c until the pasties are golden brown.
Serve one per person as an appetiser or two for a main course
If all of this is just too much effort, well, Wild and Game have a number of great alternatives including a new range of pâtés which I’ve been trying. They are the kind of pâtés which you could easily pass off as homemade. The Grouse Brandy and Herb Pâté is rich and laced with enough brandy to taste. It makes a good lunch and I can imagine it working well as part of a Christmas meat platter. I served mine with crusty bread but if I’d had any leftover stale bread I’d have made my own melba toast recipe instead – it is a smooth pâté which benefits from some texture in the bread or toast!
Wild and Game also have a range of ready meals and a selection of game products. Their food, including the pâté and pigeon breasts I used for the recipe above, is sent out frozen and I’m looking forward to trying more dishes in the future. Wild and Game is a non-profit organisation with the main aim of introducing the British public to the great taste of game meat. You can order their products online – and, in addition to pheasant breasts, pigeon breasts, sausages and pâté they have an excellent selection of frozen ready meals to make your life easy! Find out more here
For an alternative recipe for pigeon breasts why not try this autumnal special of Pigeon Breast with Red Wine and Medlar Sauce
Thinking of making this recipe at home? Why not pin this post for later