As summer - such as it was - slowly turns to autumn in this year of Food and Drink, our food thoughts turn away from salads to flavoursome, warming dishes.
And The Peat Inn’s Geoff Smeddle produced just such a dish for the lastest in our series celebrating Fife’s bounteous larder - roast crown of East Neuk wood pigeon, with black pudding and autumn roots and fruits.
Almost without exception, everything in his flavourful dish came from Fife - fruit from the restaurant’s own back garden, mushrooms foraged locally, pigeon shot by a neighbouring farmer, black pudding made by a local butcher to Geoff’s own recipe.
Geoff is part of a group of local chefs working on a calendar that showcases Scotland’s best seasonal produce, which will culminate in an exciting Food and Drink Festival this autumn.
Chef converts pigeon sceptic to pigeon fancier in one dish
Let’s be frank – for a lot of people, pigeon is not only a non-starter it’s a non-any type of course at all.
And until Geoff Smeddle showed me how to cook and then made me taste this dish, I was one of them.
There were a lot of ingredients: the pigeon, all cleaned and without its legs (but including the heart, of which more later), black pudding - the Peat Inn’s own recipe, plus the shredded cooked leg meat – fruit and veg, lettuce, mushrooms, Puy lentils, shallot, herbs, potatoes...
And Geoff made it look oh, so simple, quickly cooking the bird, creating a lettuce leaf parcel, heating black pudding, cooking the lentils and the mushrooms and, finally, tossing the tiny heart into a pan for just seconds, before producing something he’d prepared earlier – a pile of home-made game chips, to add to an already groaning plate.
Such was his skill that I actually didn’t need any urging to taste my first pigeon – and I loved it, heart and all!
Roast Crown of East Neuk Wood Pigeon, Black Pudding and Autumn Roots & Fruits
4 Wood pigeons, legs removed and insides cleaned and removed, you can reserve the heart if you wish for this dish and also the livers for making a rich parfait
3 slices of good quality Black pudding, about 1cm thick each
A plum, a pear and an apple
1 Carrot peeled
1 Celeriac (you will not need the whole celeriac for this dish, so reserve the rest for other uses)
A head of little gem
About 5 or 6 Girolle mushrooms, or chestnut mushrooms instead, per person, quartered and rinsed
2 Potatoes peeled for game chips
100g dried Puy lentils
2 banana shallots, peeled and cut in half lengthways
several sprigs of thyme
Cut the carrot in half widthways and set aside the wider top section. Cut the lower thin section lengthways into four pieces and place in a small saucepan with the lentils, thyme and one of the shallots then cover with water. Do not add salt as this hardens the outside of the lentils. Simmer until the lentils are tender, about 40 minutes then discard the vegetables and thyme, strain and season the lentils lightly with salt, set aside for now. This can be done in advance.
To braise the pigeon legs, brown the legs briefly in a small saucepan with olive oil and butter then add a shallot sliced in rounds and some thyme. Fry for a five minutes so the shallot softens then cover with just enough stock so the legs are covered, simmer until tender, ensuring the legs remain immersed in liquid. When they are tender, cool in the liquid then flake the meat discarding any skin, bone etc then set aside the meat.
Place the black pudding on an oven dish and bake at 180 for a few minutes until soft then crumble into bowl, add the pigeon leg meat and while the mix is still warm, roll into four balls, about the size of a large walnut, set aside for now, this can be done in advance.
Dice the rest of the carrot into an even dice about half a centimetre across, do the same with the celeriac. Place the carrot and celeriac into a small pan of boiling water and blanch for one minute then drain and refresh. Cut the plum, apple and pear in the same size as the carrot and celeriac, you need about a dessert spoon of each, then combine them all and set aside.
All these steps so far can be done in advance up to 24 hours in advance
To complete and serve: slice the potato into rounds at a thickness of 1.5mm, lay them out on a tray and sprinkle a small amount of table salt all over. Leave for two minutes then squeeze them between your hands to squeeze out excess water then lay these squeezed potato slices on a clean dry plate. Deep fry at 170c until golden and crisp. Season with salt and allow to cool. Once cold, store these game chips in an airtight container.
For the pigeon: heat a cast iron frying pan large enough to hold all four pigeons. After one minute add two dessertspoons of olive oil and heat for a minute. Season the pigeon with salt all over then seal all over in the hot pan until dark golden brown on every surface. Add some thyme sprigs then lay all the pigeons on their side. Transfer to a pre heated oven at 180c for three minutes, then turn onto the other side for a further three minutes. Finally turn the pigeons onto the back and finish for a final two minutes. Remove from the oven and stand to rest while finishing the dish. Place the black pudding balls in the oven to heat for 8-10 minutes now.
Meanwhile bring a mall pan of water to the boil and blanch four large leaves of little gem for 30 seconds before laying htem out on ann oven tray . Spoon the roots and fruits mixture onto the leaves then fold each over in half to create a plump full shape, transfer to the oven for two minutes.
Heat a frying pan and sauté the mushrooms in butter until cooked, lift the mushrooms out onto a plate then in the same pan fry the hearts over a high heat for a minute, turning them over half way through then remove at once so they do not overcook.
Warm the lentils and spoon a mound in the middle of each serving plate. Place a black pudding ball next to them. Remove the breast meat from each pigeon and arrange so they are on the lentils, against the black pudding. Lift the filled gem leaf onto one side of the dish and arrange a stack of the game chips on the other side. Spoon the mushrooms over the meat and around the plate, cut the hearts in half and arrange two pieces on each dish then serve at once.