Pigeon stuffed with cracked-wheat pilaf

Pigeon stuffed with cracked-wheat pilaf

William Meppem

This pilaf makes a delightfully different accompaniment to all kind of meat dishes. Nutty, cinnamony and fruity, it also makes a delicious stuffing for farmed young pigeon. The poaching liquor will keep for a week in the refrigerator. Use it as a base to make soup, or for cooking savoury rice dishes.



Quantity Ingredient
30g currants
30ml sherry
150g coarse grade burghul, soaked in 1½ times its volume of cold water for 5 minutes
salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 orange, zested
1 tablespoon butter
50g toasted pine nuts
30g pistachios, roughly chopped


Quantity Ingredient
4 size-3 squab pigeons
2 large onions
2 garlic cloves
1 stick cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon saffron
1 bullet chilli, split
3 pods cardamom, cracked
water, to cover
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon honey
200ml vegetable oil, for frying
salt, for dusting


  1. Soak the currants in the sherry for 30 minutes.
  2. Rinse the burghul well in cold water and then put it in a heavy pot with 1½ times its volume of fresh cold water. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Bring the burghul to the boil and then simmer, covered, on low heat for 10 minutes. Drain the currants and add them to the burghul with the allspice and orange zest. Fork through and then cover again and allow to steam for a further 10 minutes. Add butter and season with salt and pepper. Allow to cool.
  3. Dry-roast the pine nuts over a high heat, shaking the pan continuously until all are an even golden colour. Add to the pilaf with the chopped pistachios.
  4. If using as a stuffing, spoon 2–3 tablespoons of the pilaf into each bird (no more, or they’ll burst). Secure the skin at the opening with a toothpick.
  5. Cut the onions into quarters and smash the garlic roughly. Place them in a pan with the cinnamon stick and cinnamon powder, saffron, chilli and cardamom pods. Add the pigeons and pour on enough water to cover. Add salt and bring slowly to the boil. Cover the pan and lower the heat, then simmer gently for 40 minutes to an hour. When testing to see if the meat is tender, pierce the leg rather than the breast. At the 30 minute mark, add the honey to the poaching stock and stir well.
  6. When the pigeons are cooked, remove them from the poaching liquor and allow them to steam dry for 10 minutes. Dust the birds with salt and fry in moderately hot oil (a wok is perfect for this). Do two at a time, turning them around in the oil as they colour. Cook for about 4 minutes, by which time they should have turned a glossy, golden mahogany.
  7. Remove birds from the oil and sit them on kitchen paper for a couple of minutes to drain off excess oil.
  8. If serving the pilaf as an accompaniment, spoon a generous amount onto each plate. Cut each pigeon into quarters and arrange next to the pilaf.
Middle East
Middle Eastern
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