Pigeon with beetroot, berries and buttermilk

Perfectly pink wood pigeon breasts are paired with salt-baked baby beetroot, sweet fresh berries and a tangy buttermilk dressing in this British game starter. Brought together with a rich jus made from the pigeon carcasses and garnished with foraged chickweed, it's a colourful dish that's perfect for celebrating autumnal flavours.


SERVES 4 as a starter

2 wood pigeons, whole, unsalted butter, for cooking, vegetable oil, for frying, sea salt

2 red onions, quartered
1 dash of vegetable oil
1/2 garlic bulb
100g portobello mushrooms, diced
1 star anise
2 bay leaves
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 litres of chicken stock

750g of plain flour, 375g of salt, 375ml of water, 1kg of baby beetroot

Buttermilk Dressing
225g of buttermilk
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tbsp of white miso, heaped
7 ml of vinegar
1 lemon, juiced
1 tsp xanthan gum
sea salt

To Serve
100g of hazelnuts, chickweed, mixed berries such as blackberries and raspberries


To begin, prepare the pigeons. Remove the legs from each bird and set aside for the sauce. Cut the crown off of each bird and remove the wishbones (you can ask your butcher to do this if preferred). Season the crowns with salt and keep in the fridge until ready to serve. Reserve the carcasses and bones for the sauce.

Preheat an oven to 200°C/gas mark 6

For the jus, spread the pigeon bones and reserved legs out on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, place a large saucepan over a medium heat and, once hot, add a dash of oil, followed by the quartered onions. Allow to caramelise on the cut sides, then add the garlic.

Add the mushrooms, star anise and herbs to the pan and cook for 2 minutes. Add the roasted bones, pour in the chicken stock and bring to the boil before reducing the heat to a simmer. Cook on a low-medium heat for 3 hours, from time to time skimming away any scum that rises to the surface.

When ready, remove the sauce from the heat, allow to cool, then strain through a sieve lined with muslin cloth.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.
For the beetroots, place the flour, salt, and water in a stand mixer with a dough hook attached and mix until a smooth dough is formed (you may need to add a little more flour or water depending on the consistency). Alternatively, you can make this dough by adding the flour and salt to a bowl and gradually adding the water, mixing with your fingertips to make a dough. Place in the fridge to rest for 15 minutes.

Split the dough into two pieces and roll each piece out into thick, circular rounds large enough to contain all the beetroot. Place one round on a baking tray lined with baking parchment, place the baby beetroot on top, then carefully drape the other sheet over the beetroots. Crimp the edges to make a completely sealed parcel – it’s important that there are no holes or gaps as you want to keep all of the moisture within the parcel.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, then remove and allow to cool before cracking open the dough. Slice the beetroots into halves or quarters and set aside until ready to serve.

For the buttermilk dressing, add all the ingredients to a blender and blitz to combine.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6

Place an ovenproof, heavy-based frying pan over a medium-high heat. Once hot, add the hazelnuts and place in the oven for 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before crushing lightly.

When ready to serve, cook the pigeon crowns. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium-high and sear the crowns until golden all over. Place in the oven breast-side up for 8 minutes — the pigeon should be cooked through but still pink in the middle. Remove from the oven, add the butter to the pan and baste thoroughly. Leave to rest for 5 minutes in a warm place before carving.

Heat the jus gently in a pan and place the beetroot pieces in the oven to heat through.

To serve, add some berries to the base of each bowl and arrange the beetroot pieces on top. Spoon some dressing around the plate. Slice the pigeon breasts and arrange over the beetroots. Pour over some jus, garnish with chickweed and serve. Enjoy!