Posted by: kathandroger | February 3, 2011

How old is your pigeon?

A couple of days ago we were out walking along the edge of a wood with some friends. Suddenly a flock of around 50 pigeons flew up into the air, causing one of our friends to reach into her pocket for her mobile phone. Her husband loves shooting pigeons, so she was relaying the location coordinates, so he could hot foot up the hill and embark on a spot of killing. As always here, there then ensued half an hour or so of food talk and recipe exchange. We thought nothing more of it until that evening when we returned to find a bag next to the gate with a message “Aussitot dit, aussitot fait!”, (no sooner said than done) and 4 pigeons inside. 

Although we’ve prepared lots of game birds and chickens, this was the first time we’d done pigeons. Having consulted our bible on such matters ( Hugh F-Whittingstall’s The River Cottage Cookbook), we decided not to pluck the whole birds, but to remove the breasts and then use the carcasses for stock. However,  Hugh suggests aging the pigeons first, so you know whether you have young birds on your hands. Young birds of course will be more tender, so can be cooked fast and served pink; the oldies are more suitable for  pies and casseroles. A flexible beak, a thick neck and pliable breastbone are all signs of youth. We had a go and reckoned they were all pretty young, but is was a bit hard to tell!

So to the preparation. The first thing was to remove the feathers from the breast…

They came away very easily and in hindsight I reckon it is just as easy to pluck the whole bird than to remove the breasts. Although removing the breast is pretty easy too. Having removed the feathers from the breast, you just need to run the knife down as close as possible to the breastbone, cutting back behind the wing to include as much meat as possible.

It is a shame to waste the carcasses of the de-breasted birds, so we chopped off the feet, heads, wings and tail and skinned the remainder of the bird. I’m planning to pan fry the breasts, so using the stock to make a rich sauce will be just the job. Think I’ll serve them with some red cabbage out of the garden and a nice creamy mash….

You probably have the impression that the locals are constantly wandering around the countryside shooting all living creatures. Actually it isn’t like that at all. Hunting/shooting is very tightly controlled here. In the first place you have to pass an exam to get a license, then the hunt wardens are constantly monitoring levels of wildlife. As soon as the levels are seen to dip for a particular bird/animal, the shooting of it no longer permitted. Anyone found breaking the rules can receive a very stiff punishment. Given we are towards the end of the season, the reason pigeon is so popular is that it is just about all that is left to shoot!


  1. Est-ce que le pigeon a dit “pourquoi” comme la pintade ?

    • Bonsoir Marinette, Les pigeons ne dit rien! -sauf coo coo coo coo coo,mais maintenant ils sont dans monestomac, et monestomac dit “trs bien”! Bisous, Roger.Read our blog at

  2. […] Posted on February 5, 2011 by Jim McNeill Fellow bloggers Kath and Roger recently wrote about hunting in the South Touraine and that, despite possible preconceptions readers may have, there are some rules in France around […]

  3. quel lichou ce roger!

  4. Poor birds

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