Pigeon & Beetroot Terrine

As of 1st February, the pheasant and partridge season is over but there is still  pigeon to be had out there in the countryside. Around us, the locals will gather in the woods during the late afternoon on a Saturday waiting for dusk and the pigeons coming to roost. These wily birds are really wild and very difficult to shoot as they jink high in the sky. The guns must remain well hidden in the near dark so they are not seen.

Therefore, any wild pigeon should be treated with the respect it deserves in the kitchen. If you are given any pigeon, pluck the breast feathers off straight away and then cut the breasts off. This is not a game bird to roast. Two tips – do NOT cook the pigeon breasts for too long.  Flash fry them for 30 seconds on each side then roast for 3 minutes.  Overcooked pigeon breast is tough and horrible to eat. Secondly, I always marinade the pigeon breast for 24 hours in a combination of red wine, a little goundnut oil and seasoning such as garlic and herbs. The process of marinading the meat helps to tenderise it and also improves the flavour of the pigeon that has been cooked quickly. If you are looking for a supply of pigeon, ask your local butcher or, in the countryside, a farmer.

For a recipe, I go back to an old cookery book Cooking for Friends by Raymond Blanc (1994).  He looks very young on the front cover! You can still get a Used copy on Amazon for £4.30. Pigeon & Beetroot terrine is a recipe that is brilliant for a winter dinner party.  It’s not difficult as long as you plan ahead and as always, use the correct sized equipment. In this case, a loaf tin.  I buy all this type of kitchen stuff in Biggers of Bailgate in Lincoln – contact details below.  You will need a weight to press the terrine down and I use a bag of lentils/beans etc.  Use something that is heavy and will also spread out to fill the space.

Finally a serving tip. After the terrine has been turned out, use a very sharp carving knife to cut a clean, tidy slice. I then use a cake slice to carefully place it on the plate.  I am making it sound a huge faff. It’s not, but I have done this many times and this is the best method. Please try it, your family and friends will be impressed and it’s delicious.

Equipment – 1 loaf (terrine) tin 9 inches long, 4 inches wide and 4 inches deep
8 breasts of wild pigeon
1 tbsp groundnut oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the marinade
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp red wine
2 juniper berries, crushed
freshly ground black pepper
1 bayleaf

For the terrine
1 kg beetroots
1 tbsp caster sugar\
12 black peppercorns, crushed
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
5 gelatine leaves – soak them in a bowl of cold water to soften

For the garnish
2 handfuls of various salad leaves
3 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar

Method –
Mix the marinade ingredients together. Place the pigeon breasts in a small flat dish and pour over the marinade. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge for 24 hours. It’s good if you can remember to turn them a few times.

Wash the beetroots and place in a casserole dish. Cover with cold water and add a tsp of salt, the sugar, peppercorns and vinegar. Simmer for 50 minutes.  I do this in the Aga (baking oven), otherwise a moderate oven – 150C if fine. Check they are cooked with a knife blade – they may need more time if they are large. Leave them to cool in the liquid.
This will be retained to make the jelly.  Peel the beetroot and chop into 1/2 inch dice. Taste to check the seasoning.  Set aside.

Place 300 ml of the beetroot water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the softened gelatine, take off the heat and stir. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 230C. Place the terrine tin in the freezer for at least 20 minutes.

Remove the pigeon breasts from the marinade and pat dry. Take a frying pan and heat the oil until hot. Sear the breasts for 30 seconds on each side. Season with salt and pepper and then place in a roasting tin in the oven for 3 minutes. Remove from the tin and allow to cool. Season again with more salt and pepper.

You will now build the terrine.  Remove the terrine tin from the freezer and pour an 1/8inch
layer of jelly on the bottom.  This will set immediately. Neatly place a layer of diced beetroot in the terrine, then along the middle, a line of pigeon breast. Cover with another layer of the diced beetroot. Top with the beetroot jelly and cover the terrine with cling film.  Place the weight on top of the cling film and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.

Just before serving, remove the weight and cling film from the terrine.  Dip the terrine tin in hot water. Heat a sharp knife under hot water and carefully run the blade along the inside.
Carefully invert onto a flat plate.  Cut the terrine into slices and using the cake slice, place
onto the plates. Garnish with the salad leaves.  Shake the salad dressing ingredients in a jam jar, season and drizzle onto the leaves.  Your guests will love this delicious and smart

Contact details – In Lincoln, Biggers of Bailgate – 01522 525 536

I would love to hear from anyone who would like to make a comment.




At this time of the year there will be an evening when you want to push the boat out.  It’s not quite the Christmas season but you feel wintery and festive.

I get a few friends round and put a bit of extra time in.  I feel that I want to do something a bit special.  The dinner (or lunch) calls for Partridge.

If you live in the country, you will come across coveys of partridge (a family group), particularly at harvest time in the stubble fields.  They are highly likely to be red legged, French partridges. I am told by a local Lincolnshire expert that the English ones fly too fast and people can’t shoot them!  The French ones are also easier to rear.  So, this is a bird that has not even led the life as a grass/corn fed chicken in a field or barn.  It’s completely wild and therefore has a wonderful gamey (but not too gamey) taste.  I much prefer it to it’s wild neighbour, the pheasant.  Generally a partridge is easier to bring to a lovely, ‘just cooked enough, done’ state whereas a pheasant , roasted, can easily be tough.

Buying them should not be that difficult.  You cannot find them in supermarkets here but a good butcher will have them or I hope you can find a game dealer.  I buy dressed (plucked and cleaned) partridges by the box from Jonathan Fenwick at Beelsby.  Each partridge comes very conveniently, individually wrapped.  You should allow one partridge per person.  Currently the price/partridge is between £4-6/brace.  There are two partridges in a brace. Contact details below.

For an idea for a recipe I go back to a book from 1995. Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers – THE RIVER CAFE COOK BOOK.  I spent the 90’s in a flat in Ladbroke Grove cooking from this book and still love it today.  There is a not a huge amount of meat on a partridge but I would be serving a Starter and a Pudding, maybe cheese.  All the partridge needs is the Chestnut stuffing, the pan juices and a nutty, creamy parsnip puree.  You will be transported to a Tuscan winter and your friends will have had a real treat.

Partridge with Proscuitto and a Chestnut Stuffing served with a Parsnip Puree
Serves – 6

Ingredients –
6 partridges, plucked and cleaned
80 g unsalted butter
6 slices prosciutto
1 tablespoon olive oil
150 ml Italian red wine – I recommend a light red like Dolcetta

For the stuffing –
250 g pack vacuum-packed peeled chestnuts
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
175 g fresh belly pork (minced) or good quality sausage meat
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
100 g pancetta, chopped
150 ml Italian red wine as above
1 teaspoon crushed juniper berries
1/4 nutmeg, grated
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method –
Make the stuffing. Break chestnuts into small pieces. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onion until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, pork or sausage meat and thyme, and cook, stirring, until the meat is brown. Add the pancetta, the wine, juniper and nutmeg and cook together for a further 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and cool. This can be all done in advance and I prefer it that way.  All the flavours mesh together.

When you are ready to cook the partridges, preheat the oven to 230 C. (Aga roasting oven). Add the chestnut pieces to the cool stuffing and then stuff each bird. Cover the partridge breasts with a covering of butter and then a slice of proscuitto. Brush a suitably sized roasting tin with the oil and brown the birds for 10 mins. Baste with the buttery juices and then lower the heat to 180 C for a further 20 minutes. (Aga baking oven). Test by pulling a leg away – if still too pink, cook for a few more minutes.  Remove to a warmed meat platter and cover with foil.  They will sit happily in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Parsnip Puree –
Serves 6
Ingredients –
6 large parsnips, peeled
60 g unsalted butter plus a little extra to finish
400 ml full fat milk
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method –
Chop the parnsips into even 1cm dice. Melt the butter, add the parnsips and season well with salt and pepper. Cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Occasionally, move them around with a spoon. Add enough milk to cover the parsnips and cook over a low heat until they have completely softened – about 15 minutes. Strain off the milk and keep it warm.  Blend the parnsips in a Magimix (or with a hand held blender), adding back enough milk to make a thick, smooth puree.  Check the seasoning.  When you are ready to serve, gently reheat the parnip puree with a knob of butter.

Deglaze the roasting pan juices with the red wine. Spoon the puree onto each hot plate and place the whole partridge on top. Spoon the red wine juices over the birds and serve immediately.

Contact details –
In Lincolnshire, contact Jonathan Fenwick for boxes of partridges – 07860 869 537 or 01472 371 245.

Next time – RICH, FRUIT CAKE