VW Pigeon Pie
Please don't fret. This isn't the precursor to a succession of posts about camper vans and 'Beetles'. The 'VW' on show here is the undeniably sleek and fabulously engineered Val Warner. His writings are never far from my kitchen. Here is much that is 'red in tooth and claw'. The natural bounty of the countryside leaps and flies into and out of his recipes. There is also plenty of foraging from the static natural world which is waiting to be picked or harvested... good, honest stuff.
Mr. Warner seasons his text with idiosyncratic words, phrases and descriptions. These will distract and delay you. Let them do so - they are worth the price of admission alone. What follows is something that I neglected for too long but finally made just after Christmas.
I’m pretty much decided on the approach to my blog. When I recommend a recipe, I’ll simply try to show that it’s approachable… “I’m a cook, not a chef!” So, please read this and then discard it temporarily - you’ll be welcome back any time later. Arm yourself with a laptop, iPad or print-out of the online recipe and don’t wait as long as I did before making it.
Here is the recipe for VW's Pigeon Pie
Ah, yes... one more thing and then I really will give you the low-down on this smashing feast. Graham and Karen opened seventeen months ago just down the road from us. Since then, Brown's Family Butchers has provided all our fresh meat needs and a fair few items from their 'home made' selection. The pigeons here came from them. Five of them in all. I used all the carcasses and four of the breasts, freezing the others. Modify amounts like I did or stick to the recipe for six.
If you haven't yet done so, go and find your own nearest 'proper' local butcher. I assure you that there are enough to go round. Seek them out beyond the supermarket also-rans.
The carcasses were chopped up using a santoku which came courtesy of a special offer from one of those recently-mentioned supermarkets. The blade served its purpose but I was soon reminded that a superior item might fit nicely on my wish-list.
Once the stock is bubbling the house begins to fill with pervading clouds of glorious vapour. This is probably the time to ensure that no laundry is hung out on a clothes horse. There are some limits to the spraying of this particular cookery cologne.
More careful, regular chopping is needed for the rest of the filling.
If you follow @ValentineWarner he has recently tweeted to advise "Should you want to make a game pie Resist urge to use bacon as it tends to dominate and mask the flavours of the furred or feathered" I agree almost entirely but the lardons I used were the last of some which were unaccountably bland - no real harm done.
Pigeon breasts: plump and skinless... in the process I found a couple of reassuringly authentic shot pellets... no empty cartridges for my photo-shoot though!
When frying the breast pieces the idea is to do surface damage only. Full heat and speed are vital to avoid anything but minimal cooking.
The meat and veg filling is combined. My choice of pie dish catered for a generous twosome. The whole thing is beginning to promise something rather special now.
Flour, butter, salt and water. What a quartet! Many recipes forgive you for using shop-bought pastry. On no account are you allowed to do that here. This golden, crunching, melting crust that topped off everything almost stole the show.
Tenderstem broccoli was fine but provided little distraction from this almost perfect pie. I'll be honest and repeat that warning about the flash-in-the-pan browning required for the breast meat... mine was ever so slightly 'over'. Still the most enjoyed meal at home since recent Christmas highlights.
You have the recipe at your disposal. Go to it... better still, order The Good Table and enjoy a plethora of further scrummy dishes. This one appears as 'Roast pigeon and ale pie' on page 104 in my copy. No further mention of boozy content is made but I can assure you it would not add very much.
That'll do for now. I trust you'll be inspired (so much better than being insipid!)
Oh, dammit, no... let's just take one more look at a thing of true beauty: