Pigeon tagine with dates and ginger

Pigeon tagine with dates and ginger

By
From
Arabesque
Photographer
William Meppem

In the Middle East they get their pigeons live from the souks, and grill them over a hot barbecue. Here in Australia we have to make do with the less flavoursome farmed variety – usually sold as squab, which are tender baby birds weighing 250–400 g. Their rich, dark meat is delicious in this spicy sauce. The combination of pigeon and dates is a Persian and Moroccan favourite, although traditional recipes, which use large amounts of fruit, can be too sweet for western palates. In this version, the sauce is spiced with pungent saffron and ginger, which help cut the sweetness and richness of the dish. It needs only a simple pilaf or couscous accompaniment.

Pigeon stock

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
4 pigeon carcasses and trimmings, (leftover from tagine, below)
20ml olive oil
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 celery stick, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, roughly bashed
1 bay leaf
a few sprigs thyme
12 tablespoons sherry
1 1/2 litres cold water

Tagine

Quantity Ingredient
4 squab pigeons, breasts and marylands removed
1/2 teaspoon salt
500ml water or pigeon stock
100g butter
20ml olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh black pepper
1/4 teaspoon powdered saffron
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
200g fresh dates, seeded and chopped
1/3 cup parsley leaves

Method

  1. Prepare the pigeons by cutting off heads, necks and claws, trimming the wings and then neatly slicing away the breasts and marylands (thigh and drumstick) from each bird. Season each piece with salt. If you don’t feel confident about preparing the pigeons yourself, ask your butcher to prepare them for you, and to keep the carcasses so you can make a stock.
  2. To make the stock, briefly sauté the carcasses to add colour, then add the vegetables, bay leaf and thyme and sauté a few more minutes. Add the sherry and scrape any bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour the water over the top and bring to the boil. Skim off any surface fat, then lower the heat and simmer for an hour, skimming off any additional fat from time to time.
  3. To make the tagine, melt the butter and oil and fry the onions and garlic over a medium heat until softened. Add the pepper, saffron, cinnamon and ginger and stir well. Season the pigeon pieces with salt and sauté in the spicy mixture for about 2 minutes, until they are well coated. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Then add the chopped dates and stir in well. Cover again and simmer for a further 20–30 minutes, or until pigeon pieces are nice and tender.
  4. Sprinkle over the parsley leaves, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
  5. Serve with plain buttered couscous or a simple rice pilaf.
Tags:
Middle East
Middle Eastern
Arabic
Arabian
Arabesque
Greg
Lucy
Malouf
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