Breast of pigeon with sage and black pepper

For a truly splendid dish try Paul Rankin's richly flavourful game dish, served with red wine sauce and root mash
By Paul Rankin
Breast of pigeon with sage and black pepper
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 4
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Effort: medium



  • 4 pigeons, skin on
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp celery, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 juniper berries
  • 8 whole peppercorns
  • 125 ml red wine
  • 250 ml brown chicken stock
  • ½ tsp cracked black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp sage, chopped
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • salt, and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 sprig of sage, to garnish
  • buttered cabbage

For the carrot and parsnip mash:

  • 6 parsnips, sliced
  • 6 carrots, sliced
  • 3-4 tbsp butter
  • salt, and freshly ground white pepper


1. With a sharp-pointed knife cut the breasts away from the pigeon carcasses, keeping your knife towards the bones all the time.

2. Trim the breast fillets into a nice shape and set to one side. Chop the carcasses and legs into pieces, using a heavy knife.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add in the chopped pigeon pieces and fry until well-browned.

4. Add in the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bay leaf, juniper berries and whole peppercorns, and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring now and then.

5. Pour in the red wine and deglaze the saucepan with the wine, scraping the bottom of the saucepan to release all the tasty bits.

6. Reduce the wine until it has almost disappeared, then add in the chicken stock. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

7. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a clean bowl and stir in the cracked peppercorns, sage and 1 tablespoon of the butter. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if necessary. Keep the sauce in a warm place.

8. To cook the mash, cook the carrots and parsnips separately in boiling, salted water until nicely tender but not too soft. Parsnips, in particular, have the ability to 'soak' up liquid, which could make it a mushy mash.

9. Drain both vegetables well and mash them by hand or in a food processor, with the butter and salt and white pepper. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. Keep warm.

10. To cook the pigeon breasts, melt the remaining butter with the remaining olive oil in a large sauté pan and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

11. When the butter begins to foam add the pigeon breasts, skin-side down. Adjust the heat so that the delicate breasts don't cook too fast. They should brown slowly, without becoming crispy. Cook for about 4 minutes, then turn over for another 2 minutes for medium-rare. When cooked, remove to a warm plate to rest for 2 minutes.

12. To serve, remove the skin from the breasts with a sharp knife and slice each breast in two.

13. Place a serving of the carrot and parsnip mash in the centre of four plates. Divide the buttered cabbage into four portions and place on top of the mash. Lay two slices of breast on top of each portion of vegetables. Spoon a little of the sauce over and around and garnish with a sprig of sage. Serve.

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