Pan fried fragrant pigeon breast salad

by Lesley Holdship

A tasty and economical game bird, paired with cold crisp salad

We are straying in to the season of the salad. Produce in the Market is making a move towards brighter flavours, lighter eating and vibrant colours, all waiting to make its way on to your fork.

Certain pairings of opposites work well in cooking: think of sweet and sour, spicy and cooling, sweet and salty. With that in mind, a warm salad presents a perfect marriage—cold, crisp salad leaves paired with something warm, juicy and often deliciously oily. Pigeon, a tasty and economical seasonal bird, lends itself perfectly to this treatment. 


4 pigeon breasts
150ml gutsy red wine
½ tsp ground cumin
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
2 bay leaves
4 peppercorns
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
25g butter
50g mixed salad leaves
2 stalks flat leaf parsley, leaves only
25g golden sultanas
25g Marcona almonds, lightly toasted
50g redcurrants, removed from their stalks
2 sticks celery, cut into 1cm slices
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 heaped tbsp soft dark brown sugar
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp water


Marinate the pigeon in the wine, cumin, garlic, bay and peppercorns for as long as you’ve got. 10 min or a couple of hours, anything will impart flavour into the meat.

Get all your salad bits and pieces ready, chopping things up as you need to. Heat a frying pan with the butter. Remove the pigeon from the wine, pat dry then pan fry for 2-3 mins on each side. Reserve the marinade—we are going to use it later on. Once the pigeon is cooked, leave it somewhere warm to rest.

Use the red wine marinade to deglaze your pan, reducing it until it thick and syrupy. Whisk in the vinegar, sugar, oil, water and some seasoning. Have a taste and see what you think, adjust as you see fit.

Scatter the salad leaves and parsley leaves on the serving plates and top with the sultanas, almonds, redcurrants and celery.

Slice the pigeon lengthways and arrange on the top of the salad. Drizzle generously with the dressing. Serve with crusty bread and a good glass of plonk.

ALTERNATIVE: Many of the ingredients are interchangeable, so no need to panic if you haven’t got almonds—use pistachios or walnuts. Or if you haven’t any redcurrants, plump for halved cherries, blackberries or even quartered strawberries.

Recipe: Lesley Holdship
Image: John Holdship