Cuisine Fiend

pan-fried wood pigeon breast


Pan fried pigeon breast

I’m sure wood pigeon is much underrated. You look out of the window into your garden if you’ve got one, and on seeing those puffed-up, bolshy bullies on the lawn you don’t immediately think ‘FOOD!’ And yet it's absolutely gorgeous - and cheap to boot.

I’m never too sure if the birds I see in my garden are the rather tasty little numbers (very little when divested of feathers and puffed-uppiness) that I buy from the butcher’s.  I live in the countryside so I reassure myself that my winged neighbours – and my dinner – are a different species to the feral pigeons, the ‘flying rats’ from the cities.

Pan fried wood pigeon

Blissfully cheap – a brace will not set you back more than a fiver. The meat tastes like a cross between beef and liver, it’s not strongly gamey and it’s very very tender. Takes 4 minutes to cook, a couple more to rest – what’s not to like? It’s a perfect starter for a posh dinner and by all means a main, too – just make sure you serve lots of roast potatoes with those tasty morsels of meat.

pan-fried wood pigeon breast


  • 1 wood pigeon per person or two breast fillets
  • Chinese five spice
  • zest grated from 1 orange
  • 2 tsp Demerara sugar
  • ½ glass dry white wine
  • oil for frying
  • 2-3 tbsp butter
  • seeds from half a pomegranate, to garnish
Wood pigeons


If you have whole pigeons, do not worry – filleting the breasts is really easy. Make an incision with a sharp knife very close to the breast bone, then gently prise the meat off using the knife. Cut the skin off at the back and at the wing.

Filleting wood pigeon

Score the fillets’ skin lightly in a criss-cross pattern. Season the fillets with the five spice.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and when really hot, place the fillets in skin side down. Press them gently with a spatula to ensure even cooking. Fry for 2 minutes on each side and keep warm for at least 4 minutes to let them rest.

Frying pigeon breast

Meanwhile deglaze the pan with the wine, add the orange zest mixed with the sugar and a good knob of butter. Cook down until it starts to caramelise.

Orange caramel

Slice the fillets on a diagonal, arrange on the plates and spoon the orange caramel over and around them.

Sprinkle the pomegranate seeds on top and serve.

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